According to the CDC, swimming is the fourth most popular sport in the United States, and people report enjoying water-based exercise more than exercising on land. Whether you’re one of those water-loving individuals, or stay far away from the water, there are some serious benefits to hopping in the pool and getting some exercise.
Below, we’ve rounded up 10 great reasons to swim laps, from the low-impact exercise it provides to the potential for stress relief.
It’s a Total-Body Workout
Start swimming, and notice how many muscle groups are at work. Your legs kick through the water, your shoulders, chest and arms propel you forward, and your core keeps you steady as you rotate to breathe or turn at the wall. The water provides gentle resistance to work your muscles, and your increase in heart rate builds cardiovascular endurance. It’s the total package.
Unlike running, lifting and a variety of sports, swimming is a very joint-friendly activity. Because of the gravity-defying effects of swimming horizontally through water, you can get all the benefits of cardiovascular exercise and muscle training without putting weight and stress on your joints.
You Can do it (Almost) Forever
The low-impact nature of swimming means you can do it well into your golden years. Once activities like running and even cycling become too difficult — or carry an injury risk — swimming is an option. Plus, the Arthritis Foundation recommends it for those suffering from arthritis.
Swimmers Live Longer
According to a University of South Carolina study of more than 40,000 men, swimmers had a 53% lower all-cause mortality rate than men who were sedentary. Makes sense. But they also had much lower mortality rates than walkers (50%) and runners (49%).
You Might Lose Some Weight
Swimming torches calories, to the tune of 540 calories per hour for someone who weighs 170 pounds. Of course, swimming can also make you work up quite an appetite, so to achieve weight loss, you’ll still have to burn more calories than you consume. But swim enough, eat right, and you just might drop some pounds.
It’s Good For Your Heart
A study by the State University of New York showed that, in comparison to non-swimmers, swimmers have lower heart rates, better blood pressure, better circulation and improved breathing. Those are four great reasons to swim.
It’s a Year-Round Workout
Though it’s usually associated with sunshine and warm weather, swimming is a year-round activity. In the summer, enjoy some time outside at the pool. Then, once cooler weather hits, move inside to your local community center or natatorium.
It Relieves Stress
An international survey of nearly 4,000 swimmers aged 16–45 found swimming relieves stress and has as positive mental impact. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said swimming helps to release stress and tension, 68% said being in the water helps them feel good about themselves and 70% said swimming helps them to feel mentally refreshed.
Swimming Improves Flexibility
Beyond increasing your cardiovascular health and providing joint-friendly muscle training, swimming can also make you more limber. Unlike strength training, which often isolates muscles, swimming requires a full range of motion — this keeps muscles and joints loose. It’s also one of the only exercises that lengthens the body rather than compressing it.
When you’re swimming laps, it’s just you and the water (well, assuming no one is encroaching on your lane). You can tune out the world, and just focus on your breathing, your strokes and the refreshing feeling of gliding through the pool like a four-limbed fish.