Mental & Physical Benefits of Swimming

Young Woman Swimming in a Pool Underwater
Swimming provides a variety of mental and physical benefits. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Swimming is fun, and it provides a multitude of mental and physical benefits. Swimming is the second most popular sport in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Kids love to swim at the pool or the beach but this healthful activity is not just for children. Adults who engage in swimming are healthier and happier than people who live a sedentary lifestyle. You even gain mental and physical benefits from regular swimming as a senior citizen.

Mental Benefits

Recreational swimming leaves you with a positive feeling after exercise. Fun decreases stress. Swimming elicits a natural, positive response to being in the water. Swimming with others in a public pool fosters community spirit and offers an opportunity to meet new friends. Spending leisure time at the pool or the beach with friends and family increases shared memories and, subsequently, better mental health through social interaction and intimacy.

Participation in swim meets feeds your competitive spirit. Perceived competition fosters psychological well-being, enhancing mental health, according to a 2010 report by University of Valencia, Spain, researchers in the public health publication “Salud Pública de México.”

Adapted Swimming

Swimming circumvents locomotion impairments, visual disabilities or developmental difficulties associated with stroke, cerebral palsy and other disorders. If you are disabled, it’s often easier to participate in water sports than on dry land because of the freedom buoyancy provides. This levels the playing field between disabled athletes and those who do not have disabilities. Your physical therapist can advise you on how to adapt swimming techniques to strengthen muscles and, in some cases, reduce the degree of your disability.

Physical Benefits

Swimming helps your arthritic joints. Exercise reduces stiffness and discomfort if you suffer from arthritis. However, you may experience joint pain during exercises out of the pool due to the impact from movements like running and jumping. Water makes you buoyant and supports your weight, spine, joints and muscles.

Water also provides resistance that’s good for your muscular endurance and for strength training, whether you suffer from arthritis or not. Swim more to increase your muscular strength and endurance. Swimming increases your cardiovascular functional capacity as well, which means your heart is more capable of pumping blood efficiently.

Benefits for Seniors

Three out of four senior citizens do not get enough exercise, according to American Family Physician. You are never too old to swim. Swimming is especially beneficial for you as you get older because it exercises your whole body without putting stress on your joints and muscles. This activity increases bone density in post-menopausal women. Increasing your bone density reduces your risk for breaking a bone if you fall. If you are an elderly citizen in nursing home, swimming may motivate you to improve your exercise habits and increase participation in other activities.

Considerations

Swimming may prolong your life. Swimmers have lower mortality rates than runners, walkers and those with sedentary lifestyles, according to Nancy L. Chase, lead author for a 2008 study published by the “International Journal of Aquatic Research and Development.” A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for developing life-threatening health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

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