Swimming delivers all the key benefits of an effective fitness program, without stressing out your precious joints. The built-in resistance of water promotes muscle strength, endurance and flexibility -- all things you need to be a good swimmer. The resistance benefits of training in water combined with the aerobic activity of swimming mean you hit all five components of fitness swimming. That makes swimming one of the best fitness bargains around.
Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular activity because it involves continuous movement of large muscle mass in a low-to-zero gravity environment, which makes it easy on your joints. Swimming for at least 20 minutes, three times a week can help you achieve a healthier life because it gets your heart rate up, burns fat and improves your body’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to your working muscles. Swimming can make you feel good -- really good. Your body releases endorphins during aerobic activity like swimming, says MayoClinic.com, and this helps improve your overall sense of well-being.
Endurance and Muscular Strength
Exercising in water adds natural resistance to your workout, which helps build stronger muscles. Unlike running or riding a bike, swimming builds muscle in both the upper and lower body. It also boosts endurance, enabling you to swim longer and further before muscles are fatigued. Upping resistance can build both endurance and muscle strength. This can be accomplished with a drag suit, hand paddles or resistance gloves, which force you to work harder to swim from one end of the pool to the other. Strength and endurance can also be built by isolating the muscles of the lower or upper body. A kick board will help propel you through the water using just lower body strength. Or use a pull buoy to isolate your upper body, which builds strength in those muscles by working them harder.
Another benefit of the strength training aspect of swimming is injury prevention. One of the leading causes of injury is weakness of an improperly conditioned muscle or weak joints, both of which can be improved through strength training. Because of the wide range of motions involved when strokes are done properly, says Emmett Hines in his 2008 book, "Fitness Swimming," swimming improves flexibility, a factor that allows you to continue swimming even when you're unable to participate in other sports.
Body composition, the amount of fat compared to the amount of lean mass, is an important factor in physical fitness because too much body fat increases risk for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, says MayoClinic.com. Lower body fat and higher muscle mass leads to improved flexibility and more calories burned during a workout. Because swimming burns calories while also building strength and endurance, it is an excellent fitness activity for achieving a healthy body composition and fabulous tone.
Christy Ayala writes about recreation, sports, aquatics, healthy living, family and parenting, language development, organizational change, pets and animals. Ayala holds a master's degree in recreation administration from Aurora University’s George Williams College, a graduate certificate in organizational change from Hawaii Pacific University and a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.