Swim and you’re winning!

Harry Needs, elite swimmer and personal trainer at Life Leisure

Summer and swimming go hand in hand. When temperatures rise and the holiday season kicks in, the thought of cooling down in a pool or having a splash in the sea holds almost unrivalled appeal.

What we often forget is that as well as being great fun and a wonderful way to stay cool during the summer months, swimming is also great exercise with benefits including weight loss, cardiovascular conditioning and mood boosting. Better still – it’s an activity that the whole family can enjoy because there are no restrictions on ages or abilities.

So, instead of just having a holiday fling with swimming this summer, why not try developing a long term relationship. You might just find your true fitness love.

Here are my top six reasons to give swimming a go:

Slim down and shape up

Swimming really does provide a whole body workout. In fact, over two thirds of the body’s musculature is worked encompassing lower body, upper body and core. Because water is around 12 times denser than air and provides great resistance for toning – ideal for those looking to develop lean muscle mass rather than bulking up. Also, around 30 minutes of breast stroke (most people’s go-to stoke) will burn off around 367 calories without the joint impact of activities such as running.

Swim more, stress less

Exercise of any kind has been shown to be a great stress reliever due to endorphin release. But studies have also shown that swimming may be particularly beneficial for our mental health and sense of wellbeing. A poll of around 4000 swimmers by Speedo, for example, found that 74% felt less stress and over two thirds said they actually felt their self-esteem improved.

Breathe easy

Swimming is an aerobic exercise that is really good for your heart and your lungs, improving overall cardiopulmonary capacity. It will help you, in effect, ‘train’ your lungs to use oxygen efficiently. You will breathe more easily which is great in general, but particularly good if you suffer from asthma. Indeed, research has shown that the improvements to breathing that asthma sufferers tend to experience when swimming regularly is so great, that even if the individual stopped swimming, the benefits would last for up to a year.

See progress and stay motivated

Trust me, there are few activities where is it so easy to see progress. Whether it’s finishing faster lengths or developing the ability to swim for longer, it doesn’t take long at all for swimmers of all ages and abilities to see and feel the benefits and that is really motivating. As a result, swimmers tend to stick at it. There are many exercises, sports and fitness fads that come and go – with participants doing the same – but I find that once people start swimming regularly, they really do find it hard to stop.

Swim your way to better sleep

As well as resulting in general tiredness and stress, a poor night’s sleep can have a massive impact on efforts to improve fitness and lose weight. One study in the States, for example, showed that sleep-deprived individuals on the same diet as those getting a full night’s sleep lost over 50 % less weight. Sleep is important. The good news is that swimming is a great sleep aid. A report by Mindlab International found that swimmers experience a 40% improvement in sleep quality and subsequently, after just one week, feel a 20% improvement in overall well being.

Open options

Getting into (or back into) swimming in your local pool is fantastic but remember, there are many routes that swimming can take you. Open water swimming is an increasingly popular option – last year there were around 170 mass events. A lot of people I’ve worked with also find they enjoy swimming so much, and get so much fitter, that they venture into the world of triathlons. Last year one 55 year old lady started swimming sessions at Life Leisure having never swum anything other than breast stroke. She now swims about 2000m front crawl easily and competed in her first triathlon to mark how far she’d come.

There really are few activities out there that are as accessible as swimming in terms of age and ability. Swimming really is a skill for life and a sport that can be enjoyed for life. So why not take the plunge this summer and see what water can do for you and your family.