Training woman after swimming

Published on August 6th, 2013 | by Joe Starks

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Exercise Spotlight: Swimming

Rarely is there an exercise as amazing in all its features as is swimming. Even walking, the most natural way to work out has something to envy from the sport of swimming. It does not matter whether you play around in the water or do Olympic level strokes, any type and level of swimming is beneficial to the body. But how old is swimming as a sport? What exactly are the benefits? Why should you start swimming and are there any drawbacks? These and quite a few more questions we’ll answer in this article.

What is swimming exactly?

The act of swimming in water, even in great distances, is probably as old as humanity itself. We have reasons to believe that humans swam even in the Stone Age, whether to find food or for recreation. It is the perfect way to keep cool in a hot climate, to stay clean and to find tasty morsels to eat, like sea food and aquatic plants.

What we know today as the sport of swimming is a bit more modern, having been born in the swimming associations between 1800 and 1900. This is where specific styles of swimming were born, with special types of strokes and competitions.

Four specific types of strokes are generally accepted in large competitions like the Olympics and others. These types of strokes are:

  • The breaststroke. This is the typical way most people swim. You move your legs like when a frog swims and do circular strokes with your hands. This is a very relaxed and generally slow way to swim. It is ideal for beginners and the elderly.
  • Crawl. This is the typical way we know professional swimmers swim. Bringing one hand at a time forwards and paddling widely with your legs and feet, the crawl is the fastest way to swim and take a lot of muscle and breathing coordination. This is a style for fitter people and athletes to work out with.
  • Butterfly. This is the hardest way to swim by far. You keep your legs constantly together thrusting forward like a mermaid would and you make large circles in the air with your arms. This style is challenging even for professionals, but is also an extremely good workout. Even a few strokes can make you a lot stronger if you include them in your swimming workout.
  • Backstroke. This is the easiest way to swim, especially for people who are afraid to get their face underwater or covered by a wave. You swim belly-up, rotating your arms like during the crawl and paddling your feet. This is perfect for children and beginners.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of swimming?

Swimming has quite a few benefits for both the human body and mind. Some of these are:

  • It is extremely good for the joints. The one great drawback of general exercise, especially if you are overweight, is that exercise usually damages the joints. This is why swimming is so amazing, especially in physiotherapy and weight loss regimes. Swimming protects the joints, since you work harder than in air because of water resistance, but your joints do not carry any of your weight because you float. This makes swimming perfect for very heavy people, pregnant women and the elderly.
  • It is refreshing and fun. Especially in the summer or in hot climates in general, swimming can be a way to keep your body temperature at pleasant levels. Almost all love to splash around in water and do some water games. Swimming is not all about strokes and long swims. Running and playing in water is exercise enough, especially for children and the elderly. Just keeping yourself afloat in a relaxed way can be a good exercise.
  • Swimming with strokes exercises all major muscle groups at once, something that very few exercises do with such vigor.

There are only a few drawbacks to swimming. One of them is the danger of drowning. Do not swim alone or in dangerous waters when you are inexperienced in swimming. Do not leave children or very old people alone when swimming. Don’t confuse swimming with diving. Diving can be quite dangerous for the ears if not done correctly. Finally beware of hypothermia. Staying too long in cool water can make your temperature drop and you may get sick.

Conclusion

Swimming is an amazing sport. It exercises all muscle groups, protects the joints and it is pleasant and fun. People of all ages can start swimming. As long as one is careful not to get hypothermia or to swim in dangerous waters, it can be quite a safe sport. So with a bit of responsibility, swimming can be an amazing exercise for all!

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