Swimming

The universal appeal of swimming is undeniable.

Not only is it hands-down one of the most fun activities on planet Earth, it also happens to be one of the most complete full-body exercises, with demonstrated benefits to both body and mind. Perhaps we are drawn to the water, seemingly by instinct, because of the fact that our very bodies are comprised of over 60% H2O. Or maybe it’s because we evolved out of water millions of years ago. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain- wherever you find water, you will also find people gathering in numbers.

As to the physical benefits, although many may not realize it, swimming actually has the potential to burn more calories than either biking or running. A number of studies show vigorous swimming can burn upwards of 800 calories in an hour. Whether you’re doing laps in the pool or swimming in the open ocean, you’re building muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. The fact that you have a sustained, higher heart rate means that you are also building endurance. This full-body exercise increases flexibility and naturally improves your posture and coordination. Swimming tones and builds lean muscle and can contribute meaningfully to positive overall lung, heart and mental health.

A number of studies show vigorous swimming can burn upwards of 800 calories in an hour.
A number of studies show vigorous swimming can burn upwards of 800 calories in an hour.

As to the physical benefits, although many may not realize it, swimming actually has the potential to burn more calories than either biking or running. A number of studies show vigorous swimming can burn upwards of 800 calories in an hour. Whether you’re doing laps in the pool or swimming in the open ocean, you’re building muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. The fact that you have a sustained, higher heart rate means that you are also building endurance. This full-body exercise increases flexibility and naturally improves your posture and coordination. Swimming tones and builds lean muscle and can contribute meaningfully to positive overall lung, heart and mental health.

A huge benefit of swimming is that, while you can also ramp up the intensity for a calorie-torching workout, you can also dial it back and use the same activity to de-stress, relax and allow a more gentle expenditure of physical energy to renew your mind and spirit.

Many people utilize swimming for this very thing- to alleviate stress and relax. This is certainly not a benefit to overlook. Exercise does not have to be something that you view as a grim duty, and it definitely shouldn’t hurt or make you feel uncomfortable. Swimming has mass appeal because it can be suited to the needs of the individual. Competitive swimmers who love increasing their time and going for speed and hobbyists who just enjoy relaxation in the water can benefit from the restorative aspects of swimming.

Swimming should be taken at your own pace and enjoyed.
Swimming should be taken at your own pace and enjoyed.

It is not always necessary to be taking part in some water sport or activity to realize these benefits. Sometimes all you need is to be in the water, floating, relaxing, and drowning out the rest of the world. Swimming should be taken at your own pace and enjoyed. When it’s time to go faster or start clocking for laps, you’ll know it.

The fact that swimming is generally a low-impact water sport means that you can participate safely regardless of age.

Many learn to swim early in life and can’t remember a time when they could not swim, and there are plenty of documented cases of centenarians enjoying their passion, and in some cases, even increasing their speed, into their final years. Assuming you have learned to swim and can do so safely, there is nothing to prevent you from getting out into the water and enjoying this exhilarating pastime.

mature couple in swimming pool
Mature couple in swimming pool.
Another major appeal of swimming is that it can be enjoyed in so many different settings.

Some prefer open bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, while others prefer the more predictable conditions of swimming pools at beach hotels and resorts. For those of us who can’t get enough of the water in all of its manifold goodness, you just can’t go wrong with any of these options.

But alas, we do not have access to the world’s best beaches or to our favorite rivers and lakes all the time. And let’s face it, for some people in big cities, it can be tough to locate a suitable swimming pool within reasonable distance of where they live; one that ticks off all the boxes of proximity, cleanliness and convenience. Swimming pools at the likes of local YMCA’s, gyms and public parks and facilities can be lifelines to water for those people who live in larger, land-locked urban areas. If you live in a large urban center, do some online research for aquatic centers, sports clubs and gyms, and ask them about their membership rates and open-swim times. Most cities offer affordable memberships to municipal aquatic facilities that feature a number of pools dedicated just to lap-swimming, and in some cases, you can also find quality sports clubs that also have swimming pools for reasonable rates. For city dwellers with limited access to nature, just being able to spend a few hours in the pool each week can make all the difference in the world toward a healthier lifestyle.

couple swimming in ocean
Couple swimming in ocean.

Swimming in natural bodies of water offers a completely different experience. Nowhere is this truer than in the world’s oceans and seas, where we have the opportunity to enjoy nature in all its tidal glory. Coursing out through the surf and back in toward the shore, combination swimming-body surfing, is one of the greatest forms of swimming for our money. It’s also exhilarating to swim out past the breaking waves into open water where you can free swim. Not only is it a blast, you also get the added bonus of a more naturally invigorating workout because of the shifting currents and changing water conditions.

Freshwater swimming in lakes, rivers and streams also rocks with a capital R. Lots of people combine a dip in fresh water with other complementary water sports like water skiing, boating, kite surfing and paddle boarding. Depending on the time of year and location, you may also have to break out the wetsuit, but swimming in cold waters provides a uniquely adrenaline-pumping rush that not only deters, but rather encourages the biggest swimming enthusiasts among us to take the plunge even in the coldest weather.

You may be drawn to swimming for the clear benefits it has on your physical health and fitness, or perhaps you enjoy swimming first and foremost for its restorative and relaxing qualities. Whatever your primary motivations, swimming is a fun and healthy activity that can be enjoyed by competitors and hobbyists alike at any age.