Swimming exercises all muscles including the heart muscle, strengthens the immune system, increases calorie consumption and lowers blood prere. The wrong technique, however, poses orthopedic risks. Orthopedist. Sports Medicine Dr. Markus Klingenberg, head physician at the Beta Klinik in Bonn, explains how to take full advantage of the health benefits of swimming.
Why swimming is so healthy?
"Like other aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, swimming lowers resting heart rate over the long term", says Dr. Klingenberg. The special plus: "Swimming challenges a variety of upper and lower body muscles simultaneously, especially chest, arm and shoulder muscles, while sparing ligaments and joints.", The higher humidity at the surface of the water also moistens the respiratory tract and thus supports the self-cleaning function – an effect that is particularly effective in seawater, but also in the swimming pool if one is not allergic to chlorine."
This is why swimming training makes sense
Swimming poses orthopedic risks with improper technique. And a clean technique is only possible if your body is sufficiently mobile, has basic stability and is pain-free. If you haven't swum for a long time, it makes sense to take a few lessons with a trainer – this is what you do when you train for tennis or running.
The best orthopedic tips for breaststroke
"Breaststroke swimmers should always wear goggles", advises Dr. Klingenberg: "In order to benefit from breaststroke, the head must be immersed in the water with every stroke." Here's how: Exhale as you extend your arms in the water, lift your head as you pull your arms and inhale. If, on the other hand, you swim with your head stretched back, you are training counterproductively and damaging your cervical spine, neck and back.
This is how you test the functional mobility of your cervical spine: stand up straight, mouth closed, shoulders loose. Lower your chin to your chest until it touches your breastbone. Dr. Klingenberg: "If you don't succeed, you should train the mobility of your cervical spine."
Swimming tips for the crawl
The crawl swim requires the most strength, endurance and conditions. This swimming technique strengthens and challenges above all the arm and shoulder muscles, which make the biggest contribution to locomotion. "During orthopedically sensible crawl, the head should rotate in a balanced manner to both sides. But most people don't do that, they only take a breath on one side", so Dr. Klingenberg. The correct technique is therefore a question of breathing rhythm: for example, after every third arm stroke, the head is turned to the surface of the water with shoulder rotation and inhaled, alternating left and right steadily.
"This technique requires stable trunk muscles and free movement of the cervical spine in rotation", says Dr. Klingenberg. Here's how to test if you have what it takes: While standing upright, turn your head to the right and then to the left until your chin is above your collarbone at each point. If you don't succeed in this, you will include your lower back in the rotational movement of the crawl, which will unnecessarily twist it and thus strain it. Exercise tip: Improve the mobility of your spine by standing upright, clasping your hands behind your head and rotating your upper body alternately to the left and to the right as far as you can. At the end point, inhale and exhale deeply three times each and continue to rotate with the exhalation.
How to benefit from backstroke
Without strong core muscles, you will hang like a wet bag in the water in any swimming style, especially the backstroke, and will have to make many compensatory movements to keep yourself afloat. And these incorrect loads can lead to tension and pain. You can test your trunk stability in the quadruped stance by alternately lifting and holding one arm and one leg diagonally in a horizontal position. You will find this difficult? Then do this exercise regularly 15 to 20 times per side – this will train your back, buttocks and shoulder muscles, exactly the muscles you need for a good technique in backstroke and which you continue to build up with this swimming style. Free shoulder mobility is also important for backstroke and crawl swimming. "Stretch and move your shoulder muscles before getting into the pool, for example, by rotating your arms over your head.", advises Dr. Klingenberg.
What health hazards lurk in the pool?
Many people avoid public pools for fear of contracting diseases. "You are safest in the water", also says Dr. Klingenberg, who himself worked as a swimming and diving instructor. Outside the pool, however, you should wear bathing slippers. "Even small cracks in the moist, softened skin are an easy entry point for viruses and fungi." The water in the pool is continuously purified through the use of filters and chemicals, and the effectiveness of the filters and cleanliness are checked regularly. Chlorine in water but also ultraviolet light kill microorganisms without harming swimmers. Unstable viruses such as hepatitis A virus or hepatitis B virus do not survive. So: do not let it spoil the fun of swimming!
Swimming is an ideal sport to train the cardiovascular system, the immune system and many muscles at the same time – and to burn calories at the same time. In order for your body to benefit optimally, you should ensure that its mobility and stability meet the requirements of a clean technique. With our tips you will succeed!
Book tip for fitness return to sport. Functional training after sports injuries (by Dr.