Humans have been swimming for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians loved swimming for its therapeutic benefits and considered it an important part of their culture. In ancient Greece and Rome, swimming was a part of military training. Swimming was also important in Asia. In the 18th century, an imperial edict made swimming mandatory for schools. For Europe, however, swimming became less popular in the Middle Ages. People feared water, believing it could spread disease. By the 19th century, swimming was back in peoples’ good graces. Today, it’s both a sport and recreational activity. Why is it important? Here are ten reasons:
#1. Swimming saves lives
According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the world’s third leading cause of unintentional injury death. In 2016, that totaled to about 320,000 deaths. The WHO also acknowledges that this may significantly underestimate the issue. Unlike animals, humans aren’t born with a natural ability to swim. Learning is essential to saving lives.
#2. Swimming opens up more employment opportunities
Being able to swim opens up many doors for future employment. Examples of professions include lifeguard, swimming teacher, competitive swimming coach, and rescue swimmer. Many other careers that aren’t focused on swimming involve that skill, such as underwater photography and marine biology. Certain branches of the military – like the Navy and Coast guard – also require swimming tests. Even if you aren’t planning on a career dedicated to swimming, it’s a skill that gives you more options.
#3. Swimming works out your entire body
If you’re into fitness or want to improve your exercise routine, swimming is one of the best workouts you can get. Why? It works out your entire body using only the water and your own body weight. Swimming engages your legs, arms, glutes, upper body, your core, and your back muscles. Just 20 minutes in the pool burns more than 250 calories.
#4. Swimming is good for your joints
If you have joint problems or have suffered an injury, working out can be very challenging. It can even make problems worse if you aren’t careful. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise thanks to the water’s buoyancy. For people with arthritis, hydrotherapy (water therapy) is often recommended. Exercises in the water can help improve a person’s posture, range of motion, and balance. The pool can also reduce joint swelling.
#5. Swimming is good for people with asthma
Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, but what if you have asthma? Exercise-induced asthma is a real problem. Luckily, swimming is one of the few exercises that doesn’t aggravate this condition. It could be because the air is moist and warm. Swimming also requires breath control, which strengthens a person’s lungs and helps them develop better breathing practices.
#6. Swimming is great for your heart health
Swimming is an aerobic activity, otherwise known as “cardio.” During aerobic exercise, large muscles move constantly for a certain length of time while the heart rate increases. The benefits of this type of exercise include a lowered risk for issues like heart disease and diabetes. Because there’s lots of breath control involved in swimming, your muscles work harder and you can reach those heart rate targets faster than with other forms of aerobic exercise.
#7. Swimming strengthens your lungs
When you take a deep breath and swim underwater, your body knows it has to use oxygen more efficiently. As you swim, your body takes in more oxygen with each breath and gets rid of more carbon dioxide when you exhale. This affects your “tidal volume,” which is the amount of air that moves in and out of your lungs during normal, relaxed breathing. Evidence suggests that swimmers have better tidal volume than non-swimmers. This is associated with lower resting heart rates and lower blood pressure.
#8. Swimming results in better brain health
Because swimming is so good for your heart and helps it pump blood more efficiently, it’s also good for your brain. Better blood flow to your brain leads to better memory, mental clarity, and focus. In a study from the Journal of Physiology, blood flow in men increased by 14% when they submerged themselves in water up to their hearts. This could be because the water’s pressure on the chest cavity encourages more blood flow to the brain.
#9. Swimming has anti-aging effects
Considering all the health benefits of swimming, it makes sense that it has anti-aging effects. Evidence shows that people who swim regularly can be biologically 20 years younger than their actual age. Thanks to benefits like lower blood pressure, better cholesterol levels, reduced joint pain, better brain health, and more, you can fight off age with swimming.
#10. Swimming improves your mental health
All types of exercise have a positive impact on a person’s mental health. For swimming specifically, a study in Britain showed that the activity reduced the depression and anxiety symptoms of 1.4 million adults. Almost 500,000 British adults with mental illness said that thanks to swimming, they were able to cut back on their number of visits to a mental health professional.