Seven Ways Swimming Makes You a Better Athlete

We’re often so busy talking about the benefits of one-piece pools that we forget to talk about the real reason we’re all here: swimming!

The benefits of swimming for people of all ages, needs and abilities simply cannot be overstated. Nor can these benefits be covered in one article alone, because swimming offers entirely different sets of benefits to different people.

We supply in-ground pools to athletes and young families, retired couples, disabled individuals, and even canine hydrotherapists, but this week, we’re talking about the benefits of swimming for athletes. For marathon-runners to triathletes, cyclists to Iron Men (and Women) in training, here’s what swimming can bring to your game.

1. Cardio and Strength Training in One

To put it bluntly, if you’re not moving constantly in the pool, you’re sinking – so swimming is great cardiovascular exercise and it forces you to work muscle groups not normally used in other exercise. Plus, water is about 800 times denser than air, so exercising in the water makes the body work harder. In fact, 30 minutes in the pool is worth 45 on land.

2. Low Impact: High Output

Swimming is widely celebrated for being a low impact sport that’s great for people with injuries, pregnant women, and those who need to go easy on their joints – but it also means better results. With swimming, you can work out at higher intensities and more frequently without experiencing the wear and tear your body would feel from running or other land-based training. Research in the International Journal of Sports Medicine shows that swimming is better than rest for exercise recovery, too.

3. Increases Lung Capacity

When your face is under water, oxygen is at a premium. As a result, your body adapts to use oxygen more efficiently. The body also learns to take in more fresh air with every breath, and expel more carbon dioxide with every exhalation. A study in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology even found that swimmers displayed better tidal volume (this is the amount of air that moves in and out of the lungs during resting breaths) compared to runners. This means lower resting heart rates, lower blood pressure, and better running performance.

4. Helps You Run Better

By optimising the way your body processes oxygen, swimming boosts your endurance. In a 2013 study by the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, swimmers who used a controlled breathing technique (two breaths per pool length) improved their running economy by 6% after just 12 swim sessions. Respiratory benefits aside, swimming works your glutes and your hamstrings, your core and your shoulders – all of which are needed for improved running form and performance.

5. Combats Stress

Being submerged in water helps to blur and quieten the amount of sensory information our minds and bodies are used to processing all day. Even just the thought of that is quite calming, isn’t it? A study published in Pain Research & Management found that regular flotation tank sessions helped alleviate symptoms of chronic stress in patients. So whilst exercise-induced endorphins alone are brilliant for zapping away at stress levels, water possesses its very own mood-boosting benefits.

6. Turns Back the Clock

Swimming brings positive effects to your blood pressure, cholesterol, cardiovascular performance, central nervous system, cognitive functioning, muscle mass and blood chemistry. In fact, regular swimmers studied in a project Indiana University were found to be biologically 20 years younger than their actual ages.

7. It Makes You Smarter

Blood flow to the brain increased by up to 14% when men submerged themselves in water up to their hearts, a Journal of Physiology study found. Researchers attribute this increase in blood flow to the water’s pressure on the chest cavity.

We’re always fascinated to see how swimming transforms our customers’ lifestyles, and as sponsors of Thame Swimming Club we’re seeing first-hand what a super sport this is for young people to get involved in – from a social and developmental perspective as well as for health and fitness. Stay tuned for future articles on how you can (and why you should) get your children involved in swimming.