How we can feel great, at a stroke


Swimming - Credit: Getty Images

In a county blessed with beautiful coastline it is little wonder swimming is the most popular form of exercise in summer. The EADT’s health expert, sports nutritionist Nikki Edwards, looks at the numerous significant benefits of a dip and why it is the perfect activity for people of all ages and abilities.

Swimming is excellent exercise for people from the very young to the very old, the slow to the fast, those with injuries or degenerative conditions, pregnant women, beginners, serious athletes, and fitness enthusiasts.

Around three million people take the plunge every week in the UK, compared with only two million who play football and 1.8m who cycle.

How to get started

A swimming costume – one-piece, bikini, tankini, trunks or pants ? is all you need. Make sure your choice is comfortable and fits properly.

Wearing goggles is a good idea, to avoid the stinging sensation caused by chlorine and to see where you’re going when you put your face under.

The best place to get started is your local pool. You will find information on classes for different age groups and levels, women-only sessions, timetables and prices. To get the best results, set aside time every week for a dip. For competent swimmers there is a world of opportunities beyond the pool, such as rivers, lakes and the sea. Open water swimming can be great fun so long as you take the necessary safety precautions. Avoid swimming alone and thoroughly plan your swim, checking the water temperature, entry and exit points, currents and tides, weather conditions and water cleanliness.

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Reach the peak of physical fitness

Swimming uses all the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips, and glutes. While running increases cardiovascular fitness and tones the lower body, pilates and yoga improve core strength, rowing builds endurance in the upper body and weightlifting tones, swimming does it all. It also improves cardiovascular function and helps flexibility.

Unlike the impact caused by running, aerobics, basketball, tennis and kickboxing, swimming supports the weight of the body, with less chance of injury.

Even a gentle swim can burn over 200 calories in half an hour. Water is about 800 times denser than air, so you work harder, and burn more calories.

Improve your mental outlook

Swimming positively affects mental and emotional well-being. At least one in six people in Britain suffer from depression at any one time and those who exercise regularly have been shown to suffer less stress, tension and anger. Swimming for more than 20 minutes signals the body to release pain-killing, euphoria-producing, endorphins that promote a keen sense of well-being.

Swimming also involves methodical repetition ? soothing and relaxing.

Easy on the body

The ASA is the national governing body. Recently, it published a report that looked at research to show that swimming may help increase life expectancy. The report highlighted how swimming cuts men’s risk of dying early by about 50% compared to runners, walkers and those who don’t do any activities. It also found regular swimming is great for both sexes because it is likely to reduce heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes by about 535 cases in 100,000 people.

Everybody can have a go. Immersing yourself in water supports up to 90% of the body’s weight, meaning those with disabilities, injuries or illnesses such as arthritis have a comfortable and safe environment. The support of the water for arthritis sufferers means less painful movements in affected joints and tones supporting muscles. Swimming can also cut the risk of arthritis by helping retain muscle strength and joint structure.

Many asthma sufferers swear by swimming as a form of therapy, too.

The warm, humid air around a swimming pool causes less irritation to the airways, which makes breathing easier, and is less likely to cause an attack than other forms of exercise.

Pregnant women also find swimming a good way to exercise without risk of injury.