Swimming has long been recognized as a one-stop shop for a workout incorporating cardio, stretching and relaxing. From the moment you dive into a pool, you put into a motion a whole range of movement for the entire body.
Think of swimming as a stretching and strength work-out rolled into one; not only are your joints and ligaments put through a range of motion that enables them to be more flexible, but your muscles are also made to push and pull with resistance, giving you greater strength and stamina.
Every time you push your hands out while swimming, whether it be freestyle, back-stroke, breast-stroke or the super-effort inducing butterfly-stroke, you are essentially stretching your entire body. The next movement in each of the four strokes propels your body forward. Here you are pushing through water by using different muscles in your hands, triceps, neck, chest, legs, thighs, feet and calves. Hence, each time you complete a cycle of your preferred swimming style, you stretch and exercise your entire body. Ever wondered why all those Olympic swimmers had such toned bodies? Well, now you know. It goes beyond toning the legs and reducing the tummy, swimming works on all the muscle clusters of the body.
Another advantage of swimming is that you save energy. When you step into the water, your body becomes lighter. This means, that you do not need to carry your own body weight whilst swimming; the water in the pool does that for you.
What you do need all of that energy for, however, is in the effort required to literally push yourself ahead in water. When you go swimming, as opposed to when you go running, you move your entire body through water, a substance heavier than air. Moving your body through this denser medium means the body needs to push through greater resistance. In essence, you need to put more effort in swimming as opposed to walking or running. This means you put in almost double the effort to cover the same distance. Increased effort means more calories are burnt and hence, swimming is also a great way to lose weight.
Swimming is also a great cardiovascular exercise. Deep breaths and higher intake of oxygen mean your heart gets a thorough workout in the pool. This leads to the heart pumping more oxygen, making the arteries stronger and allowing greater blood flow to the body.
To increase one’s stamina, one can train the same way in the swimming pool as one would while preparing to run long distances: insert breaks into your routine. The best way to do this is to swim for short bursts of 2-3 minutes (if you’re a beginner), rest for a bit and then resume and continue this cycle. This allows both, greater lung and heart activity as well as pushing your muscles for a longer duration for a better workout. An intangible benefit of swimming is one which lies in your head. Swimming is a great stress buster and also a community exercise. Your daily swimming routine can be a great time to catch up with your friends or to spend some quality time with your partner and kids, and now you can find a swimming pool in Mumbai that's just around the corner! So perhaps it’s time to dust off that swimming costume and get yourself back in the pool?
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