Cardio Choices: Ditch the Treadmill and Take Up Swimming

If you’re not getting your cardio from sports like football or rugby, the chances are that you’re turning to the treadmill or the bike. As these machines are readily available in most gyms, it seems like an easy solution for men who want to work on their cardio wellness. However, you might find that it’s better for your overall wellbeing if you took a trip to your local pool.


According to fitness expert Jeff Bayer, ‘There are many reasons to take your next workout to the pool. First, it is a great cardiovascular exercise. If you push yourself hard enough, swimming can be comparable to — if not more intense than — running. Since you use both your upper and lower body to propel yourself through the water, you engage more muscles and burn more calories than with running (during which the upper body doesn’t work that much). In addition, swimming gives you a great strengthening workout. The day after your first serious session in the pool, your upper body will likely be very sore. You will be using muscles in ways you don’t normally use them, which will serve to strengthen your whole shoulder girdle as well as your back muscles (particularly your Latissimus Dorsi muscle).’ So which swimming strokes give you the best workout?


1. Freestyle Swimming: Also known as the front crawl or Australian crawl, freestyle is basically what the name implies. Bayer notes, ‘There are no specific limitations on how your arms and legs must move; you just have to be sure to keep one body part above the water at all times (except for the first 15 meters at the beginning and after each turn). This is probably the most suitable style to use if you are just beginning and until you feel comfortable in the water. A 150- to 180-pound male swimming freestyle will burn between 500 calories an hour at a moderate intensity to 700 calories an hour at a high intensity.’


2. The Breaststroke: Bayer instructs, ‘Your shoulders should be kept in line with the water, and your arm and leg movements should be coordinated to push together, performing the same actions. Your arms move out from your chest and around the sides of your body, and then back up along the centre again to return to the start position (while your legs mimic the same movement). During the first stroke as well as after a turn, you are allowed one arm stroke and leg kick with your head in the water, but the remainder of the time, your head must stay above it. Swimming for an hour using this stroke will burn about 750 calories.’


3. The Butterfly: ‘During the butterfly stroke, your arms move together from behind you, up and out of the water, ending above your head before once again entering the water, while your legs do a dolphin kick,’ Bayer details. ‘This stroke particularly calls your shoulder muscles into play, so it is recommended for those who are quite developed in this area. Since this is probably the most difficult stroke, it demands the most energy output, and you will expend approximately 800 calories an hour performing it.’


4. The Backstroke: Bayer comments, ‘Perform the movement with your back facing the water, moving your arms and legs as you would if you were performing the freestyle stroke, and you will burn around 500 calories an hour. Keep in mind that you must have a fairly good awareness of the position of your body in the pool, as you will not be able to clearly see the wall approaching.’

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