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Updated December 31, 2020
If you’ve been swimming your entire life, it’s going to be hard to believe there are 4 billion people in the world who can’t swim. That’s 4 billion people who will never feel the joy of floating on water.
In the U.S. alone, there are 10 fatal drownings daily. Globally, that number rises to 372,000 per year. As to the reasons, flood disasters, lack of supervision and awareness among children are just the tip of the iceberg. Teaching kids the basics of swimming and water rescue skills will help them enjoy the many body-mind benefits of swimming. And for adults, it’s never too late to learn to swim.
Like a number of fitness activities, swimming brings much-needed balance to our day-to-day lives. If you’re one of the 4 billion who can’t swim, these health benefits might just convince you to hit the water for your next fitness session.
Swimming is the perfect cardiovascular workout. If joint pains keep you from joining a gym, take to the pool, because swimming diminishes arterial stiffness. This, in turn, reduces risk of heart complications. Excessive stress can lead to hypertension, but studies have shown that regular swimming can keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
Obesity can make running a hellish experience, making the tranquility of a swimming pool a much better option. Instead of lifting weights, which can burden your knees and shoulders if you’re not careful, the higher density of water distributes pressure equally across your body. This makes it a kinetic exercise that offers the same, and sometimes even better, results than other workouts.
Unlock perfect breathing
While cycling or running, breath intake is shallow and you exhale with a lot more force. With swimming, it’s the other way around. A sharp intake of air is exhaled slowly, thus strengthening your respiratory muscles in the process. Over time, your body learns to utilize oxygen effectively. Research has shown this improves your tidal air—the quantity of air moving in and out of the lungs during regular breathing.
Once your breathing improves, your body’s endurance capacity goes up. This allows you to go for longer runs and not get the wind knocked out of you by the time you finish your route.
Perfect posture and underworked muscles
When you’re awake, most of your time is spent in a vertical position, either at a desk or at the wheel. Swimming’s counterpoise helps arch your back, allowing you to give those back muscles a much-needed release. This is crucial for preventing unnecessary spinal stress and back injuries.
Your deltoid, traps and lat muscles are constantly working with every lap you swim. These oft-neglected muscles are not called into action as much, for instance, when you’re biking. Swimming is about keeping your balance in the water, thus strengthening your core and lower back—two areas a number of women fail to target during regular workouts.
Geriatrics in the pool
The biggest fear when it comes to the elderly is that they might fall down and injure themselves. An Australian study found that men who swam were 33% less likely to take a tumble. A “postural sway” test was conducted on the individuals, who were required to stand still for 30 seconds while researchers recorded how much their body moved from the waist level. The swimmers fared better on the test than the rest.
This link between swimming and lesser chances of falling on land could be because of the core muscles that are strengthened while in the water. In many pools, you’ll notice old people involved in some form of light water aerobics that could also help with sustaining their aging bodies.
But swimming is an activity is for people of all ages. Just ask 66-year-old Pat Gallant-Charette, who swam the English Channel in 2017 or George Corones, a centenarian, who broke two world swimming records in his age group this year.
More than anything, swimming is a lot of fun. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll want to take a dive whenever you get a chance. It’s a great way to cool off after a stressful day. There are more than 10,000,000 pools in the world, so the odds of finding one near you are high.
Besides the health benefits mentioned above, swimming opens up a completely new world. You can go scuba diving in the Caribbean, play Marco Polo like a pro or just dive into a river when you’re out relaxing with friends—and gain major fitness benefits in the process.