Swimming: How healthy the sport is, according to Havard expertsIt's an absolute health booster: swimming not only gets your heart and circulation pumping, the sport is also easy on your joints and helps you lose weight. Havard experts explain why your city's indoor pool should become your best friend this winter.
You're looking for a sport that challenges your body but doesn't make you sweat? Swimming could be just the thing for you.
As you swim, you work many different muscles in your arms, legs and torso. This makes swimming a great workout.
The buoyancy of the water also relieves prere on the joints. This can make the workout easier if you suffer from arthritis, are overweight or are recovering from an injury.
A fit heart thanks to swimming
Although swimming is quite popular, there are few studies that focus specifically on the cardiovascular benefits of the sport – that is, taking a closer look at its effect on the heart.
Just like running, cycling or other aerobic activities, however, swimming increases heart rate with regular exercise, as a Havard cardiologist explains in a news release. "There is no reason to believe that swimming would not provide the same heart health benefits as running," says Dr. Meagan Wasfy.
Swimming, however, differs from walking and most other so-called "land-based" exercise in two ways: first, the body is oriented horizontally rather than vertically, and second, most of it is in the water.
Both have the effect of concentrating less blood supply to the legs, he says. Instead, they say, the blood can be used to supply oxygen to the heart.
This in turn means that the stroke volume of the heart (the amount of blood pumped out of the left ventricle) increases more than in other sports.
Burn a lot of calories in the water
The energy expenditure of swimming is about four times what you would burn jogging the same distance, the Havard expert points out.
For example, swimming one mile (equivalent to 1.6 kilometers) is a great way to get your body moving. 66 laps in the pool), you burn the same number of calories as running four miles (about 6.4 kilometers).
Alternatives to swimming
Swimming requires a certain amount of coordination and skill, and if you haven't been in the water for years, you may be apprehensive about getting back into exercise.
If this is the case, you can consider other types of exercise in the water. There is a diverse range of alternatives.
These include light water aerobics (low-intensity), muscle-strengthening classes, and workouts that include dance, yoga, or Pilates. Don't worry: all of these take place at the shallow end of the pool. Some courses are also aimed specifically at non-swimmers.
Some classes also use special equipment to provide extra resistance in the water. If you use neoprene gloves with synthetic webbed feet, for example, your arms will be especially challenged.
Swim belts, used when jogging at the deep end of the pool, for example, also make movement in the water more difficult. This workout, also known as "deep-water running," can be especially useful when recovering from an injury – and still wanting to stay fit.