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Guide to Swimming Exercise

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Guide to Swimming Exercise
Swimming is a wonderful aerobic activity that has minimal risk of injury and helps build most major muscle groups.

The benefits of exercise on our physical and mental health are innumerable. It is ideal to take up an exercise regimen that suits your lifestyle, your likes and your health conditions - after all you must enjoy the exercise!

You could think of working out in a gymnasium, or might enjoy walking, or even take to a sport like basketball. If dance exercise or swimming is more your cup of tea, you can take to these aerobic exercise activities. Swimming can be an excellent aerobic activity that can work wonders on your body - Enjoy it and shed those extra pounds too!

Ideal for all

It is amazing how a few laps up and down in a swimming pool can have a positive impact on your wellbeing. Swimming improves your health and all-round fitness. It can boost strength, suppleness and stamina as well. As a form of exercise, it is a lot kinder to your body and injuries are minimal. In water we weigh only about 1/10th our original weight and the natural buoyancy keeps us afloat preventing hard knocks that could be injurious.

Since weight is much lower when you are in water, it also helps in movement for those who are less fit. Therefore, swimming is a good choice for those who cannot take up weight bearing exercise, especially those with arthritis, back problems, weight problems or pregnant.

Soak up the benefits of swimming

Swimming is a demanding exercise. It uses all the major muscle groups. The muscles used in swimming vary from stroke to stroke. However strokes like breaststroke, backstroke and free style uses all the major muscle groups - abdominal, biceps and triceps, gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps. Apart from the use of the muscle groups, swimming also helps keep the joints flexible especially hip, neck, shoulders and limbs.

Swimming is categorized as an aerobic exercise because even a few laps take more than 3 minutes and the use of oxygen by the muscles is tremendous. Swimming has its benefits, which include decrease in blood pressure, which reduces the risk of having a stroke.

It reduces your resting heart rate and increases your cardiac input, which results in more blood being pumped by the heart to the rest of the body. It also reduces your resting respiratory rate, increases blood flow to the lungs and helps burn calories. When you're aerobically fit, your body makes use of oxygen to sustain movement more efficiently.

According to the U.S. Water Fitness Association (USWFA), water exercise offers many physical, social and mental benefits:

  • Improved strength and flexibility
  • Better muscular endurance and balance (Many professional and amateur athletes cross-train in the water)
  • A stronger heart
  • Enhanced physique or figure
  • Improved circulation
  • Rehabilitation therapy for used or healing muscles and recovery from accidents and injuries
  • Weight control
  • Relief from stress and tension
  • Increased energy

There is a misconception that swimming is not a very great form of exercise as you do not actually 'sweat it out'. There are different types of exercises that can be done in water.

Water Walking and Jogging: Walking and jogging in water have similar benefits to walking and jogging on land but with lesser injuries. Walking and jogging in water can be done when you are waist or chest deep in water. Water provides resistance when you walk and jog making it all the more effective.

Water Aerobics: As mentioned earlier, this provides cardio-vascular movements. Aerobics normally involves rhythmic movement. The same can be done in water for about 20 minutes or so. The resistance by the water makes the workout more strenuous thereby more effective.

Water Yoga and Relaxation: Gentle and easy flowing movements are part of water yoga. The water proves to be a relaxing medium.

Flexibility Training: Full body movements and stretches are done for flexibility training.

Water Toning and Strengthening: Movement of the upper body and lower body. Sometimes equipment is used, though water resistance suffices. It aids in strengthening, firming and sculpting the muscles.

Deep water jogging and running: Here the feet do not touch the bottom of the pool. Jogging and running is done in deep water. Flotation belts and devices are used with various drills, methods and running styles.

Wall Exercises: The pool wall is used for support and separate parts of the body are exercised.

Stretching: Slow movements are done and held for a period of time after warm up and after each workout. This helps stretch the muscles that have been worked out and also helps in avoiding soreness.

Lap Swimming: This is a common form of swimming exercise. Lap swimming can be done using different strokes and is an option for fitness exercise. You can start off with one or two laps so that you can complete without straining. Gradually the number of laps can be increased.

Swimming Strokes

A swimming stroke involves the movement of arms and legs, which in turn propels the swimmer forward. When swimming a stroke, the movement should be smooth and not jerky. Heavy splashes should be avoided when swimming using a particular stroke. Some of the popular swimming strokes are:

Free Style: This style does not limit itself to any particular technique. It is commonly called front crawl. Only 15 meters can be swum underwater

Breast Stroke: This style has a particular technique that must be strictly followed. The shoulders must be kept in line with the water; arm and leg movements must be pushed forward together and brought back under the surface of the water. It involves frog-kicking alternates with a simultaneous movement of the arms from a point in front of the head to shoulder level.

Butterfly This stroke evolved from experiments with breaststroke. The stroke involves the dolphin kick with a windmill-like movement of both arms in unison. When swimming the butterfly stroke, the swimmers must keep their shoulders in line with the surface of the water, and make arm and leg movements together.

Backstroke Swimmers remain on their back and this stroke involves alternate over-the-head arm strokes and a flutter kick in a supine position.

These are the four main strokes. There are others like trudgen, sidestroke and crawl.

Benefits of Swimming Strokes

  • Controlled breathing, which leads to developing your lung muscles and overall aerobic fitness.

  • Arm pull action which will build your triceps, shoulders, chest and back muscles, rolling torso that is vital in building the abdominal muscles.

  • Building all leg muscles.

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