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10 Amazing Benefits of Swimming You Never Knew

10 Amazing Benefits of Swimming You Never Knew

Swimming has been called the perfect exercise. After all, you can get all of 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.

It is utilized by athletes to stay strong and keep fit when recovering from injury, and there is no fancy equipment needed—just you and the deep blue.

Swimming has many more benefits that those obvious advantages seen on the surface; its improvements to overall health go much deeper. So, let’s take a big breath, and dive into the 10 benefits of swimming:

1. Swimming improves muscle definition and strength.

Swimmers gain muscle strength throughout the entire body. Where runners see muscle build in their legs, swimmers utilize more muscle groups to move through the water. While the legs kick, the arms pull. As the back reaches and rotates, the stomach tightens to power the legs and stabilize the core, making swimming one of the best aerobic exercises to give you a total body workout. Just look at Michel Phelps’ fit physique if you need inspiration!

2. Swimming builds up bone mass.

For years, researchers scoffed at the idea that swimming affected bone mass. After all, only weight-bearing exercises were able to achieve this benefit, right? Not according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Because there are ethical reasons to avoid in-depth bone examination on humans, the study put rats into three groups: running, swimming, and a control group with no exercise stimulation. While running still showed the highest increase in BMD (Bone Mineral Density),[1] the swimming group also showed benefits over the control group in both BMD and femoral bone weight. While more studies are needed, these new findings show that previous research dismissing swimming’s bone benefits may need to be revisited.

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3. Swimming helps you stay flexible.

Swimming requires you to reach, stretch, twist, and pull your way through the water. Your ankles become fins and are stretched with each kick as you push off against the liquid pressure. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still stretch on your own, but repetitive stretching found in your various strokes also helps with flexibility.

4. Swimming reduces inflammation.

While swimming’s cardiovascular benefits of strengthening the heart muscle are common knowledge, research also indicates aerobic activities,[2] such as swimming, reduce inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis[3] build-up in the heart.

Reducing system-wide inflammation leads to lessened disease progression in many other areas as well, so expect to hear of more benefits as the research progresses.

5. Swimming holds its own for calories burned.

Everyone knows that swimming is a great way to burn calories, but most don’t realize it can be just as efficient as jumping on the treadmill. Depending on the stroke you choose and your intensity, swimming can burn equal or greater calories than running.

Additionally, you don’t have to worry about sweat in your eyes. For example: for 10 minutes of swimming you burn 60 calories with the breast stroke, 80 calories with the backstroke, 100 calories with freestyle, and an impressive 150 with the butterfly stroke.

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For perspective, running a 10-minute mile burns around 100 calories. Therefore, a strong 30-min butterfly speed session can burn 150 more calories than running a 5K in the same time frame.

6. Swimming can improve exercise-induced asthma.

Nothing is as frustrating as trying to exercise and being unable to get your breath. Unlike working out in dry gym air or braving seasonal pollen counts, however, swimming allows you to breath moist air while you train. Not only does swimming help alleviate asthma symptoms, studies have shown that it can actually improve the overall condition of the lungs.

In a recent study, a group of children that completed a six-week swimming program saw improvements in symptom severity, snoring, mouth-breathing, and hospitalization and ER visits. These benefits were still noted a year after the swimming program ended. People who don’t have asthma benefit too as swimming increases overall lung-volume and teaches good breathing techniques.[4]

7. Swimming lowers stress and depression.

Love that natural endorphin kick? While many talk about a runner’s high, swimming can bring about all those feel-good emotions too.

In addition to the happy hormones, you also can feel a relaxation response similar to yoga. As I mentioned previously, swimming stretches your body constantly. Combine this with the deep rhythmic breathing, and you can experience a relaxation rush that’s very unique to the sport.

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Swimming is also calming and meditative, as the sound of your breathing and the water rushing by helps you focus inward and drown out all other distractions. This lowers stress and depression naturally.

Research also shows that swimming can reverse damage to the brain from stress through a process called hippocampal neurogenesis.[5] So, if you feel like you’re drowning emotionally, jumping in an actual body of water may be exactly what you need to find your feel-good feet again.

8. Salt-water swimming can be a beauty treatment for skin.

When I switch from pool swimming to open water workouts in the ocean, I noticed a vast improvement in my skin over time.

Swimming regularly in salt water helps the skin retain moisture and detoxify to promote new cell growth.[6] You will be surprised how smooth and healthy your skin feels after an invigorating ocean swim.

9. Swimming can make you smarter.

Of course all exercise is great for the mind, but can swimming actually make you smarter?

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Research from Australia focused on kids who took swimming lessons compared to a control group of non-swimmers. The results showed that kids who regularly participated in swimming were able to master language development, fine motor skills, confidence, and physical development sooner than the control group.

Swimming may also help with math skills, as swimmers regularly calculate the meters swum in sets or interval drills to put their adding and subtraction skills to work.

10. Swimming may just lengthen your life.

While all exercise can produce greater health and longevity, studies point to swimming as one of the best choices for doing so. Researchers at the University of South Carolina looked at 40,547 men, aged 20 to 90, for over 32 years. The results showed that those who swam had a 50 percent lower death rate than runners, walkers, or men who didn’t exercise.[7]

Feeling motivated to grab those goggles now? The water’s great! Jump on in:

What You Need to Know About Swimming for Exercise

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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