Swimming is good exercise. 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.
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 cardiovascular 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 1,609 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 benefits 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 from 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.
Swim Healthy, Swim Safely
Fish are able to live and breathe underwater, but people need air to breathe. People drown when too much water gets into their lungs. When that happens, the lungs can’t carry enough oxygen to the brain and the rest of the body.
Pools are awesome! What could be better than a dip in the pool and fun in the sun? But remember a pool’s sides and bottom are usually made of concrete, a rock-hard material. A slip or fall could be painful and dangerous. Have you seen those big numbers painted on the side of the pool? Those are called depth markers — they tell you how deep the water is at that point. You should always look before you jump into a pool. You should also only dive off the diving board. Never dive off the side of the pool unless an adult says that the water is deep enough. The water may be shallower than you think. If you hit the bottom . . . ouch! You might get knocked out or you could hurt your neck very badly.
Here’s some other good advice for the pool:
- Always have an adult watch you when you are in the pool — even in your own backyard. Never go in the pool if there is no adult around.
- Gates are around pools for a reason — to keep kids away from the water when there isn’t a lifeguard or adult around to watch them. Never go through any pool gates when they are closed. Stay safe and stay out!
- Always obey pool rules.
- Swim with a buddy.
- If you’re learning to swim, ask your mom or dad to make sure your flotation devices are Coast Guard approved.
- Walk slowly in the pool area. Don’t run.
- Swim at a depth that is safe for you. If you’re just learning to swim, stay in the shallow end.
- Don’t push or jump on others. You could accidentally hurt someone or yourself.
Lakes and Ponds
Lots of kids swim in streams, lakes, or ponds. Extra care must be taken when swimming in these beautiful places. You can’t always see the bottom of the lake or pond, so you don’t always know the depth of the water. This is an additional reason to always swim with an adult.
It’s hard to resist a day on the beach, but you’ll need to know some safety rules when you’re swimming in the ocean. When you first get to the beach, check with the lifeguard to find out how strong the waves are. Some places fly flags or write notes on a chalkboard to give swimmers an idea of what conditions are like.
Here’s some other good advice for the beach:
- Never swim alone!
- Always swim where a lifeguard can see you and in areas that are marked for swimmers to use.
- Wear protective footwear if surfaces are rough or rocky.
- Don’t swim out too far.
- Never pretend to be drowning. The lifeguard may take you seriously.
Kids love water parks and why shouldn’t they? Wave pools, giant slides, and squirting fountains are a lot of fun. To stay safe, find out what each attraction is like before jumping in. Some wave pools can get rough, so it’s a good idea to have an adult nearby.
Here are other water park safety tips:
- Wear a life jacket if you don’t know how to swim or if you’re not a strong swimmer.
- Read all of the signs before going on a ride. Make sure you are tall enough, old enough, and don’t have any of the medical conditions that are listed. If you have questions, check with a parent or ask the lifeguard.
- Always make sure there’s a lifeguard at each ride and listen to his or her instructions. Wait until the rider ahead of you has passed a safe point for you to go down the slide.
Swimming Safety Tips
As soon as it gets hot, most people enjoy cooling off in a pool or at the beach. Whether you have a pool in your backyard, are going to a friend’s house to enjoy their pool, or are planning a vacation at your favorite ocean retreat, it is important to always keep swimming safety tips in mind.
Avoid Injuries and Drowning
Young children must always be supervised while swimming. They should never be alone around water, even a small bucket with a few inches of water in it. Older teens and adults should swim with a buddy. Never swim by yourself. Of course, it is always wisest and safest to swim in an area monitored by a lifeguard.
Never consume alcohol while swimming. Most beaches and pools have banned alcoholic beverages because it contributes to unsafe swimming and drowning.
If you have young children, make sure they take swimming lessons so they can learn how to swim. Many organizations such as the Red Cross and the YMCA offer swimming classes at various levels and age abilities. There are even swimming lessons available for adults who do not know how to swim.
Know your limits. If you are not a good swimmer, never swim in water that is too deep or in an unguarded area. Be sure to take a break when you are tired. If you are swimming in the ocean, never swim if there are rough currents.
Avoid Water and Sun Related illnesses
When you go swimming, you must be careful to avoid getting an RWI (recreational water illness). The most common RWI is diarrhea, but other RWI’s can cause gastrointestinal difficulties, skin infections, or respiratory problems. These illnesses are typically caused by sick people swimming and then contaminating the pool or other swimming areas.
To avoid spreading RWIs, never swim if you are sick or if you have diarrhea. Also, always shower and have your children shower before entering a public swimming pool. Be sure that any pool you are swimming in is checked regularly and found to contain safe and effective levels of chlorine to kill bacteria.
Avoid sunburn while swimming by using a strong sunblock and reapplying it often. You can still get a sunburn while in the water. When you are sitting out of the water, wear a hat and sunglasses for additional protection.