The Benefits of Swimming for Health and Fitness

A new study that shows evidence of the health and well-being benefits of swimming was released earlier this summer and this Get-Fit Guy is rubbing his flippers together with glee.

Brock Armstrong,
August 8, 2017
Episode #349

Page 3 of 3

They Began with Children

A recent study in a large city in England investigated the impact of the local authority providing free swimming passes to 1,011 young disadvantaged children in a pre and post-test study. The authors found that providing free swimming passes helped increase self-report physical activity levels among children, with the most notable improvements seen among those who were sedentary or insufficiently active at baseline.

Another study called: Aerobic exercise interacts with neurotrophic factors to predict cognitive functioning in adolescents recruited adolescents who had in the past two months completed some or all of the following: intensive rowing, swimming and triathlon training and compared their neurocognitive performance versus age and sex matched controls that were not engaging in regular exercise. The authors found that frequent exercisers (which could have been any of the activities I just listed) had better cognitive performance, which was attributed to increases in brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). However, it was not possible to confirm or refute whether the differences in cognition among the “swimmers” and the controls were actually due to swimming or simply getting more exercise in general since we know exercise in general makes us smart!

In 2013, a study into the cognitive benefits of swimming lessons for children, reported that children participating in regular swimming lessons achieved a range of developmental milestones much earlier than the wider population regardless of socio-economic background or gender. Swimmers were between six and twelve months ahead of the norm in physical skills, cognitive skills, mathematics, language development, counting and ability to follow instructions. The reason this is important is that these areas are considered to be the key skills used in “formal education contexts” which, the authors believe, may give swimmers a “considerable advantage” as they start their academic studies.

What About Adults?

A survey study among 200 females aged 40-60 years across five cities in Korea suggested that participation in swimming was associated with improved life satisfaction, mental health and self-perception of health.

Another study of 300 adults reported that participating in swimming lessons was associated with better self-rated health, including better psychological health, reduced levels of stress and lower levels of disability.

And Older Adults?

One study found that regular older swimmers who reported swimming between two and five times a week over a period on average of 2.5 years, had significantly better executive function on three tasks, compared to sedentary older adults of similar age and gender who did not swim.

A recent Cochrane review found some evidence that aquatic exercise improved anxiety symptoms and sleep among people with fibromyalgia.

Another Cochrane review suggested that aquatic exercise has a small improvement on quality of life among people with hip or knee osteoarthritis and low back pain.

And others?

I am not going to get into all the categories in the study (like I said before, it is comprehensive) but they went on to look at swimming and its benefits for other medical conditions such as:

  • Pregnancy

  • Cancer

  • Mental health

  • Dementia and cognitive decline

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Learning disabilities

  • Autism

Concluding that “There is growing recognition that exercise can cross many boundaries and meet the wellbeing needs of the population from the cradle to grave.”

Off to the Pool!

Many of us have fond memories of going to swimming lessons as children, playing in the community outdoor pool on a hot summer day, splashing around in a lake or the ocean on vacation, and perhaps even competing in some local, provincial or national swim meets. Who knew all the good we were doing for our wellbeing while having all that fun and forever associating the bleachy, acrid smell of chlorine with the happy, nervous moments of seeing and being seen in your bathing suit.

I for one am sold and I am now headed to the pool to do some drills, practice my flip turns and reap all the benefits that swimming has to offer. Who’s with me?

If you are a lifelong swim fan like me or have questions about how to incorporate swimming into your routine, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Spotify, Google Play or via RSS.


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