What are the physical and mental benefits of swimming?

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Physical activity strengthens your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems and can improve your mood and relieve depression. It also improves the quality of your sleep, increasing energy levels. Those who exercise regularly have a reduced risk of common cancers, including breast and colon cancer.


Swimming provides the benefits of physical activity while putting less strain on your joints. This activity works your major muscle groups, and because it is a low-impact form of exercisepeople with arthritis or joint pain may want to make swimming their workout of choice.


In a 2022 study on adults with lower back pain, participants who followed a three-month aquatic exercise program reported less pain and better quality of life than those who followed a standard physical therapy regimen. These long-term benefits lasted for up to a year.


Dolphin Pools has compiled a list of ways swimming during exercise can improve overall health. Read on to learn more about how this activity benefits your mind and body.


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Improves important measures of overall health


Swimming can help lower your cholesterol and blood sugar (glucose) levels, lower your blood pressure and burn fat, measures that provide insight into your health.


In a small study published in 2021, a 16-week regimen of swimming for two hours three times a week improved metabolic syndrome risk factors in adults with type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Participants in the swim group showed significant improvement after 16 weeks in their total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar compared to those in the control group. who maintained their usual way of life. The swimming group also reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, and body fat percentage at the end of the study period.


In another small study conducted in 1997, previously sedentary men and women with mild to moderate hypertension participated in a swimming program, which resulted in participants having lower resting heart rates and lower systolic blood pressure after 10 weeks. No changes in resting heart rate or blood pressure were seen in the control group, which did not exercise.


A man swimming in a lake

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Improves cardiorespiratory fitness


Swimming is a cardio workout which increases your heart rate, improves circulation and strengthens your heart muscle.


In a study 2017 which followed participants for 20 years, those who swam regularly reduced their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 41%. And because your body is horizontal in the water, more blood returns to your heart when you swim, rather than pooling in your legs as it does during land-based cardiovascular exercise.


woman in red suit swimming

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Decreases arthritic joint pain during exercise


Swimming is a low impact way to work all of your major muscle groups. However, it is important to use the stroke that is most comfortable for your joints.


For example, if you have arthritis in your knees or hips, you may be more comfortable swimming. freestyle because you keep your legs relatively straight when swimming freestyle. A stroke like the breaststroke, where your knees are bent and you kick outward, can be uncomfortable and aggravate any pain you already feel in those joints.


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Helps manage symptoms of depression


When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, hormones that can reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood. Anecdotal and peer-reviewed research has shown that swimming can improve depressive symptoms, mood, and overall well-being.


For example, in a 2020 study published in Lifestyle Medicine, researchers found that participants who completed 10 weeks of outdoor swimming experienced acute and chronic positive mood increases and improved well-being compared to the non-swimming control group. Similarly, in a 2018 case study published in the British Medical Journal, a 24-year-old woman with major depressive disorder and anxiety reported a significant improvement in mood after a weekly session of cold-water swimming, as well as a gradual and lasting improvement in depressive symptoms.


More research needs to be done to explain the exact mechanisms that make swimming effective for improving mood, but it’s an activity worth trying nonetheless.


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Enriches nighttime sleep


Studies have shown that aerobic exercise, including swimming, can improve the quality of your sleep. Although researchers are not sure how exactly exercise improves sleepthey know it improves the amount of slow or deep sleep you get.


Slow wave sleep gives your body and brain the chance to recharge. An Australian study published in 2017 found that significantly fewer pregnant women who participated in a 17-week program aquatic exercise program report poorer quality sleep than those who did not participate in the program.


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Reduces negative emotions


During exercise, your brain’s pituitary gland and hypothalamus release endorphins, hormones that can improve mood. In a 1992 studystudents who did yoga or swam reported decreased feelings of tension, confusion, anger, and depression than those in the control group who attended a lecture.


The researchers said that the fact that those who practiced yoga reported similar mood benefits to those who swam suggests that both aerobic and anaerobic exercise may benefit mood.


Woman swimming in a lake

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Improves quality of life for seniors struggling with daily activities


In a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education26 Japanese women, all over the age of 70, participated in aquatic exercises for 60 minutes three times a week for a period of 12 weeks.


The results demonstrated that the aquatic exercise program improved functional fitness and measures of balance in activities of daily living, or ADLs, which are tasks that a person must be able to perform in order to live well. independently and meet their daily needs. Improved quality of life was attributed to an ability to perform ADLs and better exercise habits.


Two elderly women swimming side by side

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Increases bone density


Benefits of physical activity bone health at any age. In fact, less physical activity can increase your risk of osteoporotic fractures.


In a small Israeli study published in 2008, menopausal women who swam for one hour three times a week maintained or showed improved bone mineral density after seven months. However, participants in the control group, who did not exercise, showed a decrease in bone density.


Female trainer in the water giving a group of children swimming lessons

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Promotes the social development of children


Exercise can improve cognitive function and social abilities and build self-esteem. 10-week swimming program improved boys’ swimming skills autism spectrum disorder while improving his behavior towards others. The researchers said that, based on their findings, swimming programs have the potential to help children improve their social skills.


Another study, an independent report commissioned by the UK swimming governing body, found that children who regularly participate in swimming lessons develop social skills faster than those who do not.


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Improves memory accuracy and attention


Cardiovascular training like swimming can improve memory by triggering transient changes in brain function. And exercising regularly over a long period of time has cumulative effects on the size of the seahorse, part of the brain responsible for memory processing. Exercises like swimming also improve cognitive function.


A little tunisian study of children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) found that those assigned to a swimming program had better memory, impulse control, and longer attention spans than those who didn’t of exercise. The researchers said their findings provide preliminary evidence to support the use of recreational exercise programs as an alternative intervention for children with ADHD.


This story originally appeared on Dolphin Pools and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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Richard V. Johnson