Swimming Pretty: Why Weight Loss Means Getting Wet and Wild

When you’re thinking about weight loss wellness, the idea of going to the pool might not appeal. Sure, it’s fine for people who are already skinny, but a workout when you’re wearing nothing more than waterproof underwear? No thanks! Still, whether you want to improve your wellbeing, increase your fitness or just shape up and slim down, you may want to give swimming another chance. You may not love how you look in your swimming costume, but no other workout burns calories, boosts metabolism, and firms every muscle in your body (without putting stress on your joints) better than a swimming workout – so you’ll be bikini-body sexy in no time.


The benefits of swimming have been backed up by tonnes of research. Investigators at Indiana University, for example, looked at recreational fitness swimmers in comparison with non-swimmers, and found that swimmers of all ages had more lean muscle and trimmer waists and hips. All you need to hit the water is a swimming costume, some googles and maybe a cap, making it a pretty convenient way to workout (albeit without the lace-up-your-shoes-and-go convenience of running – but who likes running anyway?) Let’s take a closer look at why water just works.


Swimming workouts provide the perfect combination of calorie burning benefits with muscle recruitment, meaning it will sculpt and shape your body with ease. Even putting in a low amount of effort can help you to burn around 500 calories in an hour, while you can torch up to 700 calories if you put in a vigorous effort.  Every kick, push and pull you make is like a mini resistance workout for your entire body — especially your core, hips, arms, shoulders, and glutes – because water is nearly 800 times denser than air. This means that you’re not only blasting calories as you swim; you’re also building the lean muscle you need to boost your metabolism and burn calories even when you’re showered and dry. However, even though swimming makes you lean and mean, the irony is that it’s also kind to your body.


As you become virtually weightless in the water, you give your joints a much-needed break from gravity. Joel Stager, PhD, director of the Counsilman Centre for the Science of Swimming at Indiana University at Bloomington, who has studied the effects of swimming for years, argues, ‘You can swim almost every day without risking injury. You can’t say the same for running or strength training.’ In fact, you can swim at any age without risk, which is a major pluspoint as swimming has been shown to help you stay young. Stager’s research, which was presented at an American College of Sports Medicine Conference, has shown that your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular performance, central nervous system, and cognitive functioning are all comparable to a younger person if you swim. He notes, ‘Our research shows that habitual swimmers are biologically up to 20 years younger than their actual age.’


However, before you hit the pool with high expectations, make sure you don’t overdo it. A lot of beginners jump into the water and plan to swim for a solid half hour, but Joel Shinofield, head swim coach at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, details, ‘Four minutes later, they’re inevitably hanging onto the edge, feeling completely defeated.’ When you swim, your cardiovascular system and muscles are required to work differently than they do on land, and so your body has to adjust. Shinofield explains, ‘The key to an effective swim routine is splitting it into shorter segments, mixing in a variety of work and rest intervals, and using different strokes, drills, and intensities. It’s not only more interesting but also a better workout.’

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