A 10,000 year old prehistoric cave rock painting from the southwestern part of Egypt show original documentation of early man swimming, as confirmed in a Wikipedia “History of Swimming” research. The images seem to show the dog paddle or breaststroke, but these may have been more ritualistic than anything. Image courtesy of Archives Archaeology. Of course, anciently, swimming was done because it was actually necessary for survival.
Although humans have been swimming for thousands and thousands of years, mainly for survival or, just as important, to catch fish for food, there are incredible derived Benefits By Swimming. Swimming only became a competitive sport in the early 1800s in Great Briton‘ per Wikipedia research.
Today, swimming is the second most-watched sport in the Olympic Games only surpassed by gymnastics, per a Bleacher Report “Ranking the Top 10 Olympic Sports to Watch” research, and the 4th most popular activity in the U.S. according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) 2016 “Health Benefits of Water-based Exercise” study.
In 1875, Matthew Webb ignited public interest in swimming when he became the first person to swim across the English Channel. Swimming only breaststroke, it took him more than 21 hours to complete this feat. Thirty-one years would pass before another person would successfully swim across the Channel.
Swimming Generally Works You From Inside To Out
Understandably, the emphasis is now on how swimming is good for one’s health. Swimming has been called the perfect exercise, per a 2017 The Healthy “This Is the Best Exercise in the World—and You Can Do It Right Now” study. It works the entire body by increases your heart rate without stressing your body, tones muscles, builds strength and endurance. Studies have shown, like this 2016 Elsevier Revista Portuguesa de Pneumologia “Superior Lung Capacity in Wwimmers: Some Questions, More Answers” study builds superior lung capacity.
After all, you get all the benefits of an aerobic workout without any damaging impact on joints, and it can be done by both the very old and the very young. A Harvard Medical School 2019 “Dive Into a Swimming Regimen” review on the health benefits of swimming, Leigh de Chaves, a physical therapist and clinical supervisor of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, confirmed that, lap swimming offers a total-body workout of strengthening, stretching, and aerobic conditioning. Said de Chaves,
Absolutely a total-body workout, and the resistance of the water helps maintain muscle strength.
According to Wikipedia “Aerobic Exercise” research,
aerobic exercise (also known as cardio), is physical exercise of low and high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic-generating process. Aerobics means relating to, involving or requiring from oxygen, and refers to the use of oxygen, to adequately meet energy demands during exercise vis aerobic mechanism.
It is utilized by athletes to stay strong and keep fit when recovering from injury, and there’s no fancy equipment needed, and by small children just playing. It’s just you and the “deep blue”, per a Library of Congress explanation on “Why is the ocean blue?” study.
Throughout your entire life, no matter what your fitness level, the general benefits of swimming are yours to go out and grab and make your own. It has the power to give your muscles a makeover, transform you into a cardio king, turn back the clock, and calm you quicker than a secluded beach in the Bahamas. While your muscles are getting a good workout, your cardiovascular system is, too. Swimming makes your heart and lungs strong. Swimming help lower blood pressure, per a 2016 Biomedical Engineering (NIH) study; and control blood sugar, per a 2015 European Journal of Applied Physiology reviewed by NIH.
This 2003 “Swimming and All-Cause Mortality Risk Compared With Running, Walking, and Sedentary Habits in Men” study, published in the International Journal Of Aquatic Research and Education, by looking at death rates of active people, clearly shows how swimming benefits you health-wise your entire life. Research showed deaths among 40,547 men ages 20 to 90. Over an average of 13 years of follow-up, only 2 percent of the swimmers died, compared with 8 percent of runners, 9 percent of walkers, and 11 percent of couch potatoes. These statistics alone should get your attention!
Another 2017 “Major New Study on Health Benefits of Swimming Released” study, sighted in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine (BMJ), commissioned by Swim England, the national governing body for swimming in England, particularly highlights the benefits of swimming and aquatic activities for people with mental health concerns or problems with their joints and muscles. Jane Nickerson, Swim England CEO, said:
It is evident from the report that swimming has enormous potential to support the health and wellbeing of the nation.
Entire Body Workout
Swimming provides an all-over body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming, improving cardiovascular conditioning, muscle strength, endurance, posture, and flexibility, even breathing, and manages weight, all at the same time, confirmed in a Better Health Channel “Swimming – health benefits” study. Your cardiovascular system in particular benefits because swimming improves your body’s use of oxygen without overworking your heart.
A Harvard Medical School 2009 “Take the plunge for your heart” study, which compared blood pressure, cholesterol levels, maximum energy output, and other measures of cardiovascular health across nearly 46,000 male and female walkers, runners, swimmers, and couch potatoes. Swimmers and runners had the best numbers, followed fairly closely by walkers. Obviously, non-exercisers had the highest weights and resting heart rates and the worst cholesterol levels and overall fitness.
As you become fitter, with more stamina, and are able to swim longer, your resting heart rate and respiratory rate will be reduced, making blood flow circulation to the heart and lungs more efficient. Swimming increases the strength and function of your muscles, making them more efficient, found a 2016 Breathe study reviewed by the NIH. Your muscles will require less oxygen to move and they will produce less carbon dioxide. This will immediately reduce the amount of air you will need to breathe in and out for a given exercise.
Swimming is an excellent way to keep the pounds off by burning calories. According to fitness expert Tom Holland, an Exercise Physiologist and founder of TeamHolland, a 160-pound person burns approximately 423 calories in an hour swimming laps at a low to moderate pace, compared to a person walking, same weigh, at 3.5 miles in an hour would burn 314 calories, and an elliptical trainer, same weight, might burn just 365 calories in that hour. If you’re looking to lose weight, swimming is just the ticket. On average, a swimmer can burn as many calories in an hour as a runner who runs six miles in one hour, or about 270 calories in an hour, according to Harvard Health 2004 “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes For People of Three Different Weights” study.
While we’re comparing swimming and running, another 2012 Indian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology (NIH) study looked at the ability of good swimmers holding their breath, expanding lung capacity and gaining control over breathing, showing better results than runners lung function. One 2016 Pulmonology Journal “Superior Lung Capacity In Swimmers”study out of Portugal found that swimmers have superior lung capacity compared to football players.
As already noted and confirmed again in a 2018 Frontiers In Cardiovascular Medicine (NIH) study, swimming can help reduce and possibly prevent high blood pressure, which lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke, and increases lung capacity, improves control of breathing and increases life expectancy. Swimming is so good for you that researchers think it may even reduce your risk of death.
Compared with inactive people, swimmers have about half the risk of death, per the CDC 2016 “Health Benefits of Water-based Exercise” research. A 2018 Journal of Clinical Medicine reviewed by the NIH, in one meta-analyses, indicated that both endurance sports, running and swimming, as well as yoga decrease the Resting Heart Rate (RHR), which is vitally important for life-long health. Quoting the NIH study,
In summary, exercise-related decrease of RHR may contribute to—or at least indicate—increasing life expectancy.
While on the subject of breathing, it has long been said that swimming is the best exercise for persons with asthma, and with good reason, found a Partners Asthma Center “Exercise and Asthma” study. The air that you breathe while swimming is usually warm and moist and so the effect of exercise on the breathing tubes is less, preventing whizzing and chest tightness.
An NIH study from 2016 indicates that swimming can help to lower blood pressure and control blood sugar levels per a European Journal of Applied Physiology reviewed by NIH. A 20-week hydrotherapy swimming program resulted in significant reduction of pain for people with multiple scierosis (MS, according to a 2012 Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NIH) study. These people also showed improvements with symptoms like fatigue, depression, and disability.
A 2016 Journal of Rheumatology “Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis” study showed that people with osteoarthritis reported significant reductions in joint pain and stiffness, and experienced less physical limitation after engaging in activities like swimming and cycling. As we said earlier, some call swimming the perfect form of exercise, and it is!
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
You don’t have to be a water sign in the zodiac to feel the meditative and healing properties of water. Swimming is extremely relaxing because it allows more oxygen to flow to your muscles and forces you to regulate your breathing, as related in a NIH 2019 “How the Lungs Work” research. It’s also a great way to relieve stress, according to Speedo Swimwear in this press release.
New international research commissioned by the world’s leading swimwear brand, Speedo, has revealed that swimmers agree that swimming helps to release stress and tension, makes them more confident about the way they look and leaves them feeling mentally refreshed.
The research conducted by leading research specialists Ipsos MORI assembled the views of a global panel of swimmers aged between 16-45 across key markets and including a wide cross section of swimmers from those who swim only occasionally to those who swim regularly as part of a vigorous exercise regime, to evaluate the psychological benefits of regular swimming.
Other studies, like an NCAA “NCAA Student-Athlete Substance Use Study: Executive Summary August 2014” survey, have shown that students who play sports are more likely to go to college and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Excessive drinking is down significantly among student-athletes. Since 2005, the percentage of male student-athletes who reported drinking excessively (defined as 5 or more drinks in a typical sitting) dropped from 63 percent to 44 percent.
Alcohol excluded, student-athletes are much less likely to engage in social drug use than other college students. Among student-athletes, self-reported use of social drugs such as tobacco, marijuana and cocaine are much lower than the rates reported in other national studies of college students (e.g., University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study).
The results, in a 2012 Ciston PR Newwire “Swimming Helps Reduce Stress Says Speedo Survey” revealed that: 74 percent agreed that swimming helped relieve stress and tension, 68 percent said being in water made them feel good about themselves, and over two-thirds said it has a positive mental impact, with 70 percent agreeing it helped them feel mentally refreshed. Sports psychologist Julie Jonston added:
The feeling of ‘freedom’ whilst in the water has long been one of the key appeals behind all forms of swimming, and the results of this survey offer a clear indication that swimming not only provides an effective physical workout, but can also actively improve mentality and self-perception, making it the ideal exercise for both body and mind.
Our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water, so no one should wonder how swimming is good for exercise, and why some feel such a draw to water. Swimming promotes a better quality of life by releasing endorphins in the brain, the pleasure hormone, boosting mood and memory, found a 2006 Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (NIH) study, and particularly, in individuals with dementia. A 2014 Australas Journal of Aging (NIH) pilot study, involving individuals with dementia showed that those who swam regularly in a 12-week period showed improvement in mood.
Less Risk Of Physical Injury
There is a low risk for swimming injuries because there’s no stress on your bones, joints or connective tissues due to buoyancy and the fact that you weigh is 1/10th less in water. The exception being, competitive swimming, which can have risks of musculoskeletal injury. A 2017 PLOS|ONE (NIH) study looked at whether aquatic exercise reduced hip and knee joint loading or stressing compared to the same physical activity on land.
The study confirmed the load reducing effect of water during weight-bearing and dynamic exercises. Nevertheless, high drag forces result in increased joint contact forces and indicate greater muscle activity, as well. If you’re looking for a safe daily workout routine, swimming is ideal because you can rigorously work out with a reduced chance of swimming injuries.
Swimming works many muscle groups at the same time, ranging from your core to your legs and arms, and water does this by providing resistance for your muscles to work against. You can maximize the number of muscles you work by varying the kinds of strokes you perform. Bjorn Harald Olstad, a swimming instructor at the Norwegian School Of Sports Sciences, in a 2018 “Getting In Shape by Swimming” study said swimming is very effective for getting in shape, because it works the body’s many different muscles in a gentle way. Bjorn said,
It’s an activity that works the whole body: arms, legs and not least core muscles, belly and back.
For example, breaststroke uses mostly back muscles and requires abduction and adduction of the legs, whereas front stroke engages chest muscles along with the back muscles, and works glutes, hamstrings, and quads for the flutter kick of the legs.
Second, swimming works to build lean muscle, which improves your metabolism. And third, and most important, water takes pressure off of your joints, making swimming a viable workout for anyone, even those with injuries, including arthritis and joint weakness that come with age, found a Mayo Clinic 2018 “Exercise Helps Ease Arthritis Pain and Stiffness” research.
Many athletes supplement their training with swimming. According to a older 2000 The Journal of Perinatal Education (NIH) study, even pregnant women benefit from swimming or low-impact aerobic activities in cool water because it helps strengthen the shoulder and abdominal muscles, which can be strained when carrying a baby, due to the fact that is a low-impact physical activity.
Pregnant women and their babies can also reap some wonderful rewards from swimming we’ll cover in more detail below, particularly as infants. One 2017 Pediatric Research “Pregnancy Swimming Causes Short- and Long-Term Neuroprotection Against Hypoxia–Ischemia in Very Immature Rats” study in animals, a mother rat’s swimming was shown to alter the brain development in her offspring. It may even protect babies against a type of neurological issue called hypoxia-ischemia, but more research is needed. Here is a full-body workout in a pool video (1) with no lap swimming or special swimming equipment. Anna Renderer takes us through a calorie busting slew of moves that even have her petite frame breathing hard and toning muscle.
Improved Sleep Quality
As a clinical psychologist and sleep researcher at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Kelly Glazer Baron, frequently heard complaints from aggrieved patients about exercise. They would work out, they told her, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, but they would not sleep better that night.
Dr. Baron, confounded, delved into it, in a 2013 Journal of Sleep Medicine (NIH) study and found that the stress of exercise actually worsened the condition. Baron asserts that patients with insomnia suffer from a ’hyper-arousal’ of their stress system.
He explains that since exercise is a physical stressor, it only makes sense that patients in his study reported less energy after a night of sleeplessness, found it more difficult to stick to their exercise regime, and the cycle continued. Swimming, however, has the ability to break that cycle both mentally and physically.
Sensory deprivation, a complete lack of stress on the body, stretching, fat burning, muscle building, weight loss, combating depression, all of these powerful aspects of swimming are sure to help you sleep more soundly. So whether you’re currently doing a few laps a week or you haven’t floated in anything bigger than your bathtub for years, swimming is hands down the best way to beat late night insomnia blues.
A 2011 Sleep Medicine study reviewed by the NIH, involving older adults with insomnia, reported improved sleep in those who received aerobic physical activity routinely, and stated:
Aerobic physical activity with sleep hygiene education is an effective treatment approach to improve sleep quality, mood and quality of life in older adults with chronic insomnia.
Knowing that nearly 50 percent of older persons experience some level of insomnia, there are options which is excellent news. This 2010 Gerontology study reviewed by the NIH focused on all types of aerobic exercise, including the elliptical, Stairmaster, bicycle, pool, and exercise videos and their effectiveness in promoting sleep in older adults.
Improves Social Skills
One of the Benefits By Swimming is it strengthens social skills and connections. Low-impact activity and fun, swimming is a wonderful exercise for almost any individual, or even better in a group. Swimming can enhance teamwork skills. When you’re taught to swim in a class or on a team, you learn to work with others. A 2019 Elsevier “‘A Lot Better Than Medicine’ – Self-Organised Ocean Swimming Groups as Facilitators For Healthy Ageing” focused ethnography investigates how participation in self-organized ocean swimming groups contributes to healthy ageing amongst older men and women in the Australian coastal city of Perth.
You learn from an instructor or by helping others learn, and then you learn to work together to meet your own and team goals. These communication skills carry to all aspects of your life. Skills like these really sink in when kids are having fun too. People who swim from an early age are more confident and experience better emotional health and well being.
A 2010 Sage Publication “Journal Of Sport and Social Issues” study, looked at children learning how to swim at a young age and the social and personal development benefits derived. Swimming is a confidence-building sport. Besides the obvious physical benefits of swimming, the independence acquired with increased swim skills are a confidence boost for children. According to this “Aquatics” article by Johnston-University Of North Carolina, learning swimming at an early age has many health and well being benefits, beginning in youth. Visual-motor skills are also vastly above their peers, including delicate tasks like cutting with scissors or coloring in the lines.
Swimmers as young children seem to find it easier to develop sooner, especially in social skills, determined a Robyn Jorgensen Consulting “Early-Years Swimming: Adding Capital to Young Australians” study. Water has always been a place of social interaction for humans. Lakeside, ocean side, or poolside, they’re great places to gather with friends and family. Not only does this socializing lead to better mental health, but it gives us a chance to develop our own social skills in a casual setting. Children who learn to swim early on, also develop social skills more quickly than their peers.
Engaging in activities outside of school helps children learn social and emotional skills to help them learn how to navigate the world. It’s imperative to the social well-being of children, which includes adults too, to learn how to healthily manage emotions, show empathy, build positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. According to a 2015 American Journal of Public Health study reviewed by the NIH, early kindergarten instilling social emotional learning in children results in their social confidence and future wellness in later years.
Mindfulness and Better Cognitive Ability
Mindfulness and a calm mind occurs while swimming. Besides the biochemical benefits of swimming, some swimmers find with every arch of their arms or turn of their head, a rhythmic pattern emerges with their breathing.
With repeat practice, swimming works to calm the mind and can help teach kids to overcome pervasive thought patterns. Swimming can enhance cognitive functions, as well. By decreasing inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, exercise fosters new cell growth. In fact, according to Professor Robyn Jorgensen from Griffith University in Australia, in a “Swimming Kids Are Smarter” study, found children in swimming schools appear to be more advanced in terms of their development.
The study also determined that swimming fosters healthy physiological function, reducing anxiety and relieving stress. A Wiley 2010 “Baby Swimming: Exploring the Effects of Early Intervention on Subsequent Motor Abilities” study on children and the benefits in swimming found 4-year-old children who had taken swim lessons at some time from the age of 2 months to 4 years were better adapted to new situations, had more self-confidence, and were more independent than non-swimmers.
One more study Pediatric Child Health study reviewed by the NIH showed children who learned to swim at an earlier age seemed overall more disciplined and better-behaved than their counterparts. Another Harvard Health “Regular Exercise Changes the Brain To Improve Memory, and Thinking Skills” study concluded that,
“Ability to reduces insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors, such as the chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Benefits By Swimming In Natural Waters
There has been research done, like this 2014 North American Journal of Medical Science study reviewed by the NIH showing that hydrotherapy, in particular, regular immersion in cold water like seawater, is a mild stressor and immune stimulant, increasing white blood cell count, an important part of our immune system, strengthening our immunity.
Seawater is full of minerals, amino acids, trace minerals, and has a composition that is much the same as our blood plasma. To quote Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, in a “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” study, who developed the gut and autoimmune healing GAPS protocol:
GAPS people should swim in the natural waters of lakes, rivers and the sea instead of the toxic chemical soup of swimming pools. Natural waters are full of life, biological energy from plants and different creatures, minerals, enzymes, and many other beneficial substances. Swimming in natural waters has been prized as a therapy for many health problems for centuries. Obviously, you have to make sure the water you swim in is as far as possible from any source of industrial pollution.
In a 2014 American Journal of Occupational Therapy (NIH) study conducted a pretest-posttest investigation of a sports-oriented occupational therapy intervention using surfing in an experiential, skills-based program to support veterans with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in their transition to civilian life, and found participants reported clinically meaningful improvement in PTSD symptom severity and depression.
The relentless pounding of the waves of the ocean act as a white noise filter, and you are transformed to a state of mindfulness and your mind feels clearer and healthier. Here is an example of the mesmerizing sound of the ocean (2). This 2012 Psychiatry Research (NIH) study confirms the positive effects of mindfulness on psychological well being.
Evidence has also emerged from research that being near the sea and particularly swimming in it, can be very effective in treating certain forms of depression, such as Seasonal Defective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that occurs in individuals only during the Fall and Winter months, then subsides in the Spring and Summer.
A 1995 Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (NIH) study involved the treatment of seasonal effective disorder (seasonal depression) with a high-output negative ionizer or ions, as found in sea water and in the sea air, had some interesting results. The study found that
A 2016 Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NIH) study, on Deep Sea Water (DSW) confirmed the wide-ranging health benefits of sea water and concluded,
DSW is worthy of further investigations and could be developed as medicated water in the prevention and treatment of many health problems, especially lifestyle-related diseases.
The main purpose of thalassotherapy, or seawater therapy, or as a 2014 North American Journal of Medical Sciences (NIH) study, referred to, hydrotherapy, is to increase blood circulation. Wikipedia in it’s “Hydrotherapy” research explores the health benefits of hydrotherapy extensively as a “water-cure”.
It has been shown, according to a 2014 North American Journal of Medical Sciences (NIH) study, that below the surface of the skin there are cold sensors that react when swimming in colder ocean water, which trigger a sudden burst of adrenaline that diverts our attention away from our aches and pains, creating the feel-good factor. It’s effectively a natural painkiller.
Besides, when you’re out in nature swimming, you have more of a tendency to play and experiment more. According to the National Institute of Play “Science and Human Play” research, play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.
The Incredible Benefits Of the Natural World
Have you ever thought about the universe and the natural world, and how it has functioned almost perfectly since the dawn of time although it is always in constant change and continues to evolve and will forever.
Everything in a virtual complete balance, from the life-giving air we breathe; to the fertile ground which supports the growth of healthy nutrient-rich domestic grass fed animals and wild game animal foods we eat (A), and also the nutritious natural plant foods in the forms of complex carbs, natural fermented foods, and the medicinal herbs and spices we eat (A), play on, camp on, garden in, and exercise on, and live on, and any of the other activities you can think of; to the pristine waters we drink; play on, swim in; go fishing in; and bathe in; and at the same time; providing a home for the boundless healthy wild-caught fish and seafood we also eat (A).
Or, going to the farmers’ market to buy fresh produce of fruits and vegetables (A), or harvesting them out of your own backyard garden. Or, what about the amazing natural Adaptogen Peruvian Maca that grows wild for thousands of years in the earth at 10,000 and higher in the Andes Mountains? For all the incredible health and wellness benefits of Peruvian Maca read this article “Benefits In Maca”. This turnip-like plant has a sweet caramel-like flavor, and a butterscotch aroma, which makes it a great addition to salids, desserts, baking, breads, chocolates, and smoothies, as illustrated in our “What To Eat For Health” article.
Traditional methods of cooking are baking the fresh raw root, boiling it and mashing it, to produce a thick sweetish liquid, or roasting it. Peruvian Maca will supply you with all the energy to swim whenever you choose to and should be your natural supplement of choice. Is there any doubt why every human shouldn’t be spending as much time in our natural world and being a good steward and supporting and protecting it, as much as humanly possible, because, after all, our life, health, and well being depends on it?
We hope reading “Benefits By Swimming” has made an impact on you and you are now convinced of how important it is to your health and well being, particularly out in nature. Your comments and questions are welcomed below.
(A) Links to reviews providing more information, more research, and to buy any of these healthy nutrient-dense foods.
(1) Pop Sugar Fitness Video
(2) Relaxing White Noise Video