While most of us love nothing more than taking a dip in the water on our annual beachy holidays (around the UK or somewhere more exotic and tropical), we don’t always think about keeping up our swimming regime in our daily lives.
Thing is, we really should – swimming is one of the best forms of exercise, for body and mind. It can be done year-round, is accessible to everyone who has a council gym and typically costs under a fiver a session.
“One of the great things about swimming is that it’s suitable for everyone at any age and any level of fitness. Being in the water makes people much more equal, whether completely new to exercise, returning after a break or stepping up an existing fitness regime - there is always something that can be done in the pool. And, people with injuries, rehabilitation needs or long-term health conditions often find exercise in the water to be much easier than on land,” says Elaine McNish, Head of Health and Wellbeing at Swim England.
“As well as burning calories and improving overall fitness levels, swimming lowers the risk of diseases like diabetes and stroke and is great for relaxation and mental well-being, as well as being a fun thing to do with family and friends,” she adds.
Why do we love swimming - even when we hate gymming? Let us count the ways.
Swimming Can Prevent Diseases
We’re all on the hunt for that magical, life-extending elixir... but until we find one, we might as well start swimming.
A study of over 80,000 people commissioned by Swim England in 2017 found that swimmers had a 28% lower risk of early death and a 41% lower risk of death as a result of stroke or heart disease. Extending your life while wearing a flamingo print bikini? We’ll take it.
Anyone Can Swim. Anyone.
Swimming is truly a sport for everyone: young, old, slim, overweight, fighting fit or fighting an injury. If you’re elderly and looking to exercise but are worried about falling, or if you’re suffering from arthritis and are worried about the pain weight-bearing exercise can cause, swimming is a good option for you. Swimming can also be beneficial for those who are overweight and struggle with overheating when doing other types of exercise.
If you’re injured, it’s important to let your body heal and not rush back into intensive exercise – at the risk of making your injury worse, or hurting another part of your body. Even if you’ve sprained an ankle or have joint issues, you can still swim: water is buoyant and can support up to 90% of the body’s weight.
It’s also a great - and safe - aerobic exercise for those looking to stay fit in pregnancy. It will get your circulation going and help you to feel some relief from pregnancy-related aches and pains.
It’s A Really, Really Good Form Of Exercise
Just because swimming is a sport that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone, from a three-month-old baby to an 85-year-old, don’t let that fool you: it still provides a fantastic, comprehensive workout for the whole body.
Studies have found that moving through water puts even more pressure on your body than other types of exercise outside of the water - you just don’t feel it in the same way. Which is totally amazing. Bonus: swimming also helps to distribute the pressure evenly throughout your body, rather than overly impacting one area.
Fun fact: swimming uses all the muscles in your body - no matter what stroke you favour - and 30 minutes in a pool is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land, so it’s a good option for the time-poor. According to Swim England, you can expect to burn over 360 calories in 30 minutes of breaststroke, and over 400 doing a fast front crawl. Surely floating on a donut-shaped lilo burns something, too...
Swimming Is Wonderful For The Mind, Too
Both anecdotal evidence - and scientists - believe in the transformative power of swimming as an mental health tool. Not only is it a relaxing activity that allows you to switch off from the stresses of the daily grind and can help to reduce anxiety, but cold, open water swimming has been used as a tool to treat depression - as an alternative to antidepressants.
Water, Water, Everywhere
According to the British Swimming Pool Federation, 4,000 swimming pools are built in the UK annually, so we’re betting there’s a pool - indoor or heated outdoor - within spitting distance of where you live. Even better, unlike gym classes that expect you to be organised and book ahead of time, you can typically turn up at your local leisure centre or lido without booking in advance - you don’t even need to be a member most of the time. You just pay around £4 and swim to your heart’s content. For as long as you like.
Of course, there are also plenty of places to indulge in some wild swimming across the UK – and to take in the country’s glorious hidden lakes, rushing rivers and majestic waterfalls. Communing with nature, while swimming? Perfection.
Swimming Is A Family Affair
Family life and fitness don’t always necessarily go hand in hand. In fact, family life usually means sacrificing your fitness up to a point. Swimming is an activity you can enjoy with your baby, your toddler - even your teens. Days spent laughing in the pool will inspire lifelong memories of family fun.
What’s more, swimming with your children is an effective way to start instilling healthy exercise habits from a young age, as well as teaching kids a crucial survival skill. Plus, diving for rings in the pool is as fun at 40 as it was at 10.
Swimming Has Something For Everyone
Whether you want to zone out with a solitary swim or go to the pool with friends for a gab fest, swimming is the ideal activity for social butterflies or those who need a time out from everyone. There’s something inherently enjoyable about dipping your foot into that cool water and allowing it to envelop your body, whether you’re looking to challenge yourself with an intensive aerobic swim or do something a bit more relaxing.
Swimming also has plenty of accessories (kickboards, fins) to intensify your swim - or to play around with. There’s also variety in what you can get up to in the pool in terms of strokes, swimming under or over water, racing against the clock and mixing together different sets to create new routines. So there’s something for everyone - and every mood. Plus, it’s a lot of fun. You won’t feel like a fish out of water. We promise.