As the New Year approaches, people brace themselves for another set of New Year’s resolutions that will never be accomplished. “Lose weight” or “get in shape” seems to make it onto almost every resolution list, yet after February the ambition and drive disappears. This year, only one resolution needs to make it on the list, especially for women. Adding a regular lap swim routine, even for beginners, into the weekly mix is imperative for health, longevity, and happiness.
There are multiple reasons why swimming should be on everyone’s workout rotation. An excellent benefit for both men and women is that regular swimming can actually make a person younger physically and mentally. Perhaps not by actual years, but a study done by Indiana University reported that regular swim sessions can virtually reverse how aging impacts thinking, muscle mass, cholesterol, blood pressure, central nervous system, and even blood chemistry. All this happens in a variety of ways, but ultimately no other singular workout can do so much with so little impact on joints.
This alone is a benefit. With such limited stress on both joints and muscles, this workout reduces possible injury, wear and tear on aging bodies, and is an excellent workout for athletes recovering from injury from another sport. However, don’t believe that that makes swimming an “easy” activity. When doing an appropriate swim workout (which means not stopping at the wall each time, and pushing the body to continuously work) means simultaneous cardio as well as strength training. The resistance of the water simultaneous to the motion means the muscles are working differently than a land-based cardio workout. Also, the cardio from swimming makes lungs work like no other workout. Because breathing, and thus oxygen, is less available, the body automatically is forced to breathe efficiently, inhaling at the top of a stroke and exhaling at the bottom. This has the added benefit of developing a great lung capacity, thus making a swimmer a better runner, if he or she so chose. All this lowers heart rate and blood pressure, thus making swimmers younger.
Aside from physical changes, swimming impacts brain function, which is especially important as people age. In a study published in the Journal of Physiology found that possibly because of the water pressure around the chest and heart area, blood flow to the brain was significantly increased by water-based workouts. In fact, the study found that the blood flow was up to 14% higher, a significant increase in comparison to other types of workouts. Not only can it make a swimmer smarter, but water time can help increase happiness as well. It is well known that exercise endorphins boost mood levels greatly, but the added comfort of the supportive water can make happiness even greater.
Ultimately, no other one workout has as many benefits as swimming. Forget the expensive gyms or ridiculous fad diets and focus on one goal if losing weight and getting fit are the resolutions: swim. Local pool access can be a little as $2.50, depending on the pool, and gear is nothing more than a fitted swimsuit, goggles, hair tie, and a towel. Those who are new to swimming can join the Utah Masters Swimming for swim advice and coaching.