Swimming is one of the best ways to bolster your cardiovascular and respiratory system., improve your strength and flexibility and lose weight, all without the pounding and pumping of most land-based activities. Water’s buoyancy also makes it the ideal environment for injury-free exercise. If you hate breaking a sweat but want an effective workout, start attending the liquid gym.
Swimming laps in the pool virtually works all of the major muscles groups and has all of the cardiovascular benefits of activities like running or cycling. In an article titled, Aquatic Exercise: Medical Considerations, Dr. Scott Sarran writes that swimming is almost unrivaled as far as producing cardio and musculoskeletal benefits. It also uses more muscles groups than most other exercises, particularly the large muscles of the back and legs. And ladies, every kick is powered by the glutes, making it one of the best ways to boost a drooping rear end.
But is swimming an ideal activity for losing weight? The old myth that swimming doesn’t burn fat because you’re heart doesn’t have to work as hard is simply a myth. It is true that your heart rate may actually decrease by 10-15 beats per minute in cooler water. A lower body temperature equals a lower heart rate. But your lungs are actually having to work harder and your oxygen consumption is increased because of the pressure of the water. Sixty minutes of lap swimming can result in a 350 – 660 (depending on how vigorously you’re swimming) calorie loss.
The pool also provides you with the perfect stress-free and noise-free environment that’s ideal for long, gentle workouts. And more and more researchers are finding that a slow, steady workout with increased duration can be just as effective for fat loss as a quick, intense workout.
If you’re ready to dive in, effective swimming workouts do require a certain amount of skill since breathing rhythm and technique are key. You may want to consider taking a couple of lessons to master the basic strokes so you’re not just splashing around.
Begin a lap program by swimming 100 meters, four laps in a 25-meter pool, with a one-minute rest period between each lap. Gradually increase the number of laps you can do continuously. Swimming is predominantly aerobic if you’re swimming slowly without stopping for 15-20 minutes. Aim to swim for at least 20 minutes without stopping. Again, focus on low-intensity and long duration. Also be mindful of how you’re feeling in regards to fatigue. Remember, your heart rate may not be a good indicator of how strenuous your swimming is. Because water provides such a protective environment for joints and ligaments and lower intensity workouts mean less recovery time for your body, you can swim more frequently and for longer periods of time than you could engaging in land-based activities.
Maximize the cardio, toning and fat-burning benefits by using different strokes to vary the muscles you work. For example, the breast stroke and the butterfly stroke are great leg toners because they emphasize kicking. Practice interval training in the pool by combining lap swimming with short one to two minute bursts of vertical aqua exercises. Try water walking or jogging, even jumping jacks and scissor steps with alternate arm punches. Water is almost 14 times thicker than air, offering resistance in every direction.
Aquatic equipment can also intensify your workout. Kick boards and hand paddles isolate muscle groups for specific conditioning.
If you’ve been looking for a new and refreshing way to get or stay in shape, or if you’re tired of sore feet and joints from the land based-sports you’ve been participating in, get in the pool. Swimming workouts can be easily tailored to match your abilities and can benefit everyone from athletes to seniors. It’s definitely one of the best ways to gain cardiovascular endurance, help lose and control weight and improve strength and flexibility.