Pool time is great exercise to improve physical and mental health.
The combination of buoyancy that support your muscles and joints, resistance that tones and defines your muscles and immersion that engages the whole body makes the swimming pool an accessible source of healthy exercise for a broad range of ages and abilities, including pregnant women, people with disabilities or injuries and people with medical conditions such as asthma, arthritis or MS.
Swimming is a great cardiovascular and exercise. Adults need at least 150 minutes of such exercise each week. Studies suggest that swimming can lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, increase lung capacity and even reduce mortality rates. Water exercise, unlike running and other on-land exercise, also doesn’t put stress on the joints.
Swimming laps can burn between 400 and 1,000 calories per hour, depending on the person’s weight and pace. That’s more than walking, practising yoga, cycling or even working out on an elliptical trainer — almost as many as running, without the impact on your body. The pool can be part of your weight-control program.
Swimming exercises the whole body — arms, legs, torso, stomach — not just individual parts. Because of the water resistance, 30 minutes of exercise in the pool is worth 45 minutes of the same exercise on land.
Like other exercise, swimming released endorphins that improve the mood. It also fosters relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety. In one study, self-reported mild depression and stress fell from 44 per cent to eight per cent of the study group after swimming. Research also suggests that regular swimming can boost the mood of people with dementia.
Research has shown that exercise can improve sleep, especially in older people. Swimming provides an opportunity for anyone to get the necessary exercise regardless of age or ability.
You’re also more likely to enjoy your no-sweat exercise in the pool and do it more often. Rather than fixed, repetitive equipment or pavement-pounding, the water provides a place for free-flowing variety. For example, each swimming stroke — breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke, butterfly, freestyle — focuses on a different muscle group while engaging the whole body. Also, the pool is a place of fun, relaxation and socializing that will build your social health along with your mental and physical health.
Kara Redden is a swimming pool enthusiast who is passionate about educating others to spend less time on their pool and more time with their family. Kara is a partner at R&R Pools in Halifax and is the Atlantic chapter president of the Pool and Hot Tub Council of Canada.