13 April 2007

What's Good About Swimming?

Swimming is a healthy activity with both physical and mental benefits. Increase your fitness with water exercise, be it lap swimming or water aerobics; besides the benefits to your heart, lungs, and muscles, you will feel better about yourself.

Take a break from your hectic daily schedule and enjoy playing at the beach on a hot summer day. Being able to swim also enhances your enjoyment of other recreational activities like , scuba diving, sailing, or rafting, even going to the beach.

Swimming is probably the most nearly perfect form of exercise. It is non-weight bearing and imposes no stress on the bones and joints; it improves cardiovascular conditioning; it is an effective weight-control exercise -- one hour of swimming burns about as many calories as running six miles in one hour; and it is a form of meditation that helps calm the nerves.

Swimming also uses most of the major muscle groups, and strengthens both the upper and lower body.

Be aware of the depth of the water and any potential hazards before going in. Know where the pool ladder and steps are. When swimming in the ocean or lakes, watch for rocks, pollution, currents, and sudden changes in water temperature.

Never swim alone, regardless of your skill level. Since pool chemicals can irritate and dry the skin, shower immediately after swimming and apply moisturizing lotion.

As you swim, think about a straight line from head to hips to legs. All parts of the stroke are integrally linked. Head position and kick determine how high you ride in the water. The timing of your breathing affects your alignment and also, to some extent, the path of your arms.

Keep your head straight down as you swim; roll your body both ways, even if you only breathe on one side; don't overkick or you will tire out your legs.

Alternate different strokes within the same workout to reduce boredom and work different muscle groups.

Warm up and stretch before swimming hard. A few minutes of stretching before and after swimming will make your stroke smoother and more efficient, and will help relieve muscle soreness.

After warming up and stretching, swim continuously for 10 minutes. Once you can do that comfortably, increase your swim time by 2 minutes every third session.

Then add in a set of 10 sprints of about 50 yards each. Rest for about 30 seconds in between sprints.

Do a total-body conditioning program. It is extremely important to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles to keep the shoulder joint tight, so make shoulder-strengthening exercises part of your regular workout routine.

Free weights allow you to isolate the rotator cuff muscles better than exercise machines.

Drink plenty of fluids before and after your workout. It's easy to become dehydrated, even during water workouts.

Swimming is good exercise (that's obvious). Swimming is a lifetime sport that benefits the body and the whole person!

But what is it that makes swimming good, specifically? That depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Swimming is a healthy activity that can be continued for a lifetime - and the health benefits swimming offers for a lifetime are worth the effort it takes to get to the pool.

Why do you swim? For the health benefits to your heart and lungs?

For the chance to be with some of your friends at the pool? Because, in your case, running everyday hurts?

Because you like the feeling of floating and sliding through the water? Or is it something else?

If you are looking for a break from the heat of the summer, then a dip in the water is exactly what you need; swimming is a way for you to cool off.

It fills a wonderful recreational need for individuals and families, from beach and pool fun to water parks.

Maybe you are a runner, training on a regular basis, and want to find an activity that keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off of your body. Perhaps you have been doing some other form of land exercise, and now an injury prevents you from putting weight on a knee or ankle.

Swimming can help you. Kicking workouts, water aerobics, pool running, or a regular swimming workout can all give you a great exercise session without the weight of your body pounding you with each move.

Regular swimming builds endurance, muscle strength and cardio-vascular fitness. It can serve as a cross-training element to your regular workouts. Before a land workout, you can use the pool for a warm-up session.

Swimming with increasing effort to gradually increase your heart rate and stimulate your muscle activity is easily accomplished in the water. After a land workout, swimming a few laps can help you cool-down, move blood through your muscles to help them recover, and help you relax as you glide through the water.

Swimming does burn calories at a rate of about 3 calories a mile per pound of bodyweight. If you weigh 150 lbs. and it takes you 30 minutes to swim one mile (1,760 yards or 1,600 meters), then you will be using about 900 calories in one hour.

However, many swimmers do not swim that quickly, and many cannot swim for that distance or duration.

Spending time in a group workout, whether water aerobics or a master's swim practice, is a great social outlet. Exchanging stories, challenging each other, and sharing in the hard work make swimming with others a rewarding experience.

There are other psychological benefit to swimming, if you allow it to occur.

Relax and swim with a very low effort. Let your mind wander, focusing on nothing but the rhythm of your stroke.

This form of meditation can help you gain a feeling of well-being, leaving your water session refreshed and ready to go on with the rest of your day. Many swimmers find an in-direct benefit form swimming.

They develop life skills such as sportsmanship, time-management, self-discipline, goal-setting, and an increased sense of self-worth through their participation in the sport. Swimmers seem to do better in school, in general terms, than non-swimmers as a group.

And I didn't mention the neat things chlorine and sun can do for the texture and color of your hair...

Well, What Do Say?


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