As our bodies age, it gets increasingly difficult to find an effective sport that won’t cause us knee injury, lower back pain, and all kinds of aches and pains in our joints and muscles.
Swimming is an excellent choice for anyone looking to get in a good cardio workout while engaging in a low-risk, non-impact sport. Especially during these hot summer months, water sports are the way to go when it comes to staying fit and keeping cool.
There are many different types of swimming workouts, and even more health benefits to boot. Here you’ll find some of the best swimming workouts as well as some key swimming benefits for you to enjoy this summer.
1. Front Crawl Stroke
The front crawl, also called the freestyle, engages your whole body and gets your blood pumping quickly. It is widely regarded as the fastest of all the strokes, and it’s an excellent way to get in your cardio workout.
To do the crawl, keep your body flat and lie face down in the water with your body in line with the water surface. With your palms facing down and slightly cupped, pull the water past your hip with one hand, your elbow slightly bent. Alternate arms so that one arm is pulling while the other arm is extended out in front of you. Tilt your head to the side when you need to take a breath. As you are using your arms to move your body forward, use a flutter kick to move forward with your legs.
Considered one of the best swimming strokes for weight loss, the breaststroke is both a strength training and cardio workout that strengthens the heart, lungs, thighs, upper back, triceps, hamstrings, and lower legs.
The breaststroke is also known as the “frog stroke,” because its movements mimic those of a frog.
Starting out just below the surface of the water with your toes pointed at the wall behind you and your arms pointed ahead, start the active phase of the breaststroke. Your palms will rotate out as your arms separate, forming a “Y” shape with your body, then bending at the elbows and meeting under your chest for a full circle. Your legs will be engaging in the whip kick, a double-leg kick that resembles a frog kick. Your legs and arms should stay beneath the surface of the water the whole time, with just your head coming above the surface to take breaths in between each stroke.
The backstroke is one of the best exercises for improving posture and for toning the stomach, legs, arms, shoulders, and buttocks.
For this stroke, you will be floating on your back in the water with your head in a neutral position, face above the surface. Your legs will engage in a flutter kick. Bring one arm out of the water, thumb-first, and sweep it up and over above your hand, going back into the water pinky-first. Bend your elbow and push back down toward your thigh as you bring your other arm out of the water. Keep alternating arms and use a strong flutter kick to propel yourself across the pool.
4. Kickboard Kicks
Practice your kicks, engage your core, and get in some cardio with kickboard kicks. Arms outstretched, hold a kickboard in front of you as you kick with your legs. You can do flutter kicks, frog kicks, or butterfly kicks across the pool.
5. Water Running
It may look and feel silly at first, but water running is a great way to elevate a simple run to a really challenging workout. It’s all the resistance and none of the impact of running out of the water.
The water should get to the tops of your shoulders. Keep your back straight, arms bent at the elbow, hands balled into fists, and “run” through the water as quickly as you can. Keep it up for five minutes at a time.
Combine the above workouts in different orders to make your own beginner, intermediate, or advanced swimming workout. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water—even though you’re cool in the pool, you still sweat during swimming workouts and are thus at risk of dehydration if you don’t drink enough.
Swimming is the perfect combination of strength training and cardio. Once you start swimming regularly, you’ll be healthier, stronger, and more flexible. These are just some of the key health benefits that you can gain from swimming.
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1. Prevents Heart Disease
The very best way to ensure that you have a healthy heart is by eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise. Swimming is great cardio exercise: it gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and your oxygen levels up.
People with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels may find that their levels are reduced once they start exercising regularly. This takes a lot of pressure off the heart, preventing conditions like heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
2. Promotes Weight Loss
Swimming workouts are calorie-torchers; there’s no question about it. This low-impact sport is not by any means low intensity, and it can pose a workout challenge to people of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced.
During a 30-minute swimming workout, you’ll burn anywhere from 200–400 calories, depending on the intensity level.
3. Improves Asthma
People with exercise-induced asthma may search far and wide for a cardio workout that won’t leave them huffing, puffing, and wheezing. Swimming is a perfect workout for people with asthma because the humid environment allows for easier breaths. Also, the breathing exercises in swimming work out the lungs and help to expand lung capacity.
4. Increases Muscle Tone and Strength
Come on, who doesn’t envy a swimmer’s body?
Swimmers are known for their tight upper-body muscles, their perfect v-shaped waist, and their lean, strong bodies. That’s because water is 12 times as dense as air. Each kick and stroke performed in the water is helping to build muscle tone and strength.
5. Builds Bone Mass
Studies show that exercise not only strengthens muscles but bones as well. This is great news for menopausal and postmenopausal women who are at risk of developing osteoporosis. (1)(2)
6. Improves Flexibility
Swimming workouts include many different movements that naturally open up a range of motion and help ligaments and joints stay loose, flexible, and strong. The motions also engage the body in gentle stretches, preventing injury from exercise.
RELATED: Common Workout Injuries
7. Lowers Inflammation
Low-impact sports like swimming help to reduce inflammation throughout the body—the kind of inflammation that may be causing your symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, aches, and pains. Chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of many chronic diseases, like asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and more. Swimming can help keep those conditions at bay by lowering inflammation.
8. Reduces Stress
Exercise causes the body to release endorphins—happy hormones that are known to bust stress, anxiety, and depression. If you’ve heard of a “runner’s high,” then you know how beneficial exercise is for mental health—and swimming is no exception.
9. Boosts Brain Function
Swimming can actually make you smarter. Research shows that swimmers have more developed language, fine motor skills, confidence, physical development, and math skills than non-swimmers.
There are a lot of reasons to start doing swimming workouts, and not very many reasons not to. Even people who are disabled and those who suffer from muscle pain and joint pain can engage in all sorts of swimming workouts with ease.
The water’s fine, so grab your goggles and come on in!