Why Is Swimming Good For You


Once at the pool and threatened with death by the teacher if you made a noise going through reception to the changing room, us kids emerged from the mass bundle of clothing dumped in the centre of the communal room, swimming hats on making our eyebrows pull up to the top of our foreheads (early botox invention) racing to the verruca bath – avoiding it by trying to jump across it, then having to wait for the kids in the lost property kits as they failed to jump the foot bath due to the ill-fitting costumes then struggled to drag themselves to pool side as their low-slung crutches gathered water…incidental, one of the instructors had a very ‘unique’ way of teaching kids to swim, literally throwing them in in the deep end! He also    had the hairiest chest I’ve ever seen in my life.

I seem to remember the lessons positively, others I have spoken to remember them very differently; maybe they were the ones wearing lost property? They recall being cold; cold in the changing room, cold on pool side and cold in the water. Swimming was a punishment for them, something they were made to do as part of the curriculum. For me I’d have swum every day rather than do maths! (I still have nightmares about double maths on a Friday afternoon, why then??? that was just cruel!!)

The worst bit was getting changed afterwards; we had about 30 seconds to get from the pool into the bus. I remember the journey home, my skin still wet so I couldn’t pull my socks up, a matted,  knotted hair dripping down my back, pooling onto the seat, red eyes from the chemicals but looking forward to when I could go back. Swimming became a big part of my life for many years and I still love it, I’ve even got good at drying myself!

These lessons still go on in swimming centres up and down the country, look at the kids as they arrive and you will recognise your young self. It’s so important that kids learn to swim, going by the swimming lessons booked within SLL pools it’s great to see that many parents think the same.

Building a Childs’ confidence at an early age is so important. I know adults who had a bad experience when they were young which put them off for life which is such a shame as they miss out on a great form of exercise in later life. It’s never too late to learn though, adult swimming lessons are really popular.

There is no age limit to swimming, the buoyancy makes it a more gentle form of sport for joints and aches and pains. Look at any pool at 6.30am and I guarantee that the lanes will be full of senior swimmers, clocking up the lengths before most of us are even out of bed!

Unfortunately, many young people don’t go swimming as they don’t want to ruin their hair, make up, fake tan. (Men and women!) There may come a time in their lives when they realise that the benefits that swimming has to their health and wellbeing far out ways the 30 minutes of looking like a drowned rat! Look at the seniors as inspiration; they’re probably fitter than those much younger than them!

Why swimming is good for you

You use every part of your body when you swim, no wonder it is a safe, effective form of exercise for so many people

Good for the heart –Swimming is a great cardio-vascular workout which keeps your heart healthy

Good for asthma- As your aerobic fitness improves so can your asthma, unless the chemicals are one of your triggers

It’s low impact – 90% of your body is buoyant in water which means you are only bearing 10% of your weight. This is great if you have osteo or rheumatoid arthritis, musculoskeletal problems or you are overweight. You will be able to work out for longer than you would on dry land, roughly 75 % more gentle on your joints.

Helps with weight loss- The resistance of the water means that you have to work harder to get oxygen to your muscles, this increases the size of the muscles which need more energy to move and has the effect of increasing your metabolic rate ( the rate your body burns calories) – a great way to burn fat!

30 minutes of breast stroke at a moderate intensity burns 367 kcal ( depending on your weight and height) Compare this to 30 minutes walking – 99kcals and 30 minutes cycling – 2540kcals

Reduces the risk of diabetes type 2 – By keeping body fat to a healthy level the risk of developing diabetes is reduced and sugar levels are kept stable in those who already have the condition

Improves mental health- Regular physical activity improves the mind and body

It’s great when you’re pregnant! Due to the buoyancy effect ,water is possibly the only place that a pregnant women can feel truly comfortable during the last trimester. It also helps to keep fitness levels up in preparation for the hardest workout ever – giving birth!

Helps keep blood pressure within a healthy range- Regular activity helps the circulatory system to function well

Increases muscle strength- water is thicker than air so swimming has 44 times greater resistance meaning that muscles have to work harder to propel you along

Aqua Aerobics

If you are not a strong swimmer Aqua Aerobics may be the answer. You can remain standing in shallow water but still get the benefit of working out in water. These sessions have been voted as the fourth most popular activities for women.

What you should avoid

Many people are referred to swimming pools by a medical professional but there are some conditions which may actually be made worse by swimming

Lower back problems- if you suffer from a bad back, avoid the breast stroke leg kick. This action compresses the vertebrae and can aggravate the problem. Do free style leg kick instead.

Unstable angina- This is angina which comes on at any time, at rest, during exercise, there’s no pattern to it. It is recommended that you don’t exercise at all until the condition has been stabilised.

If you do have stable angina it is advised that you bring your GTN spray on to pool side with you

Heart attack- If you have had a recent heart attack it is advised that you attend cardiac rehabilitation sessions initially before returning to swimming to see how your heart responds to exercise. If you do have a problem it is easier to get to on dry land than in a tank full of water!

Diabetes- Always make sure that you have taken your medication before you swim and that you have eaten, ensuring adequate time for digestion

Osteoporosis- If you have osteoporosis or osteopenia it is important that you include some weight baring exercises into your weekly routine to improve bone density.

If you have a medical problem, consult your GP before you start any physical exercise. You may be eligible for the SLL Exercise Referral Schemes. Speak to reception at your nearest pool for more information.

Be aware, if you do go swimming and you’ve forgotten your costume, there is a very large lost property bin at all pools but, you really don’t want to go there!!!

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