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What's Good about Swimming
Mat Luebbers

Swimming is good exercise (that's obvious). Swimming is a lifetime sport that benefits the body and the whole person! But what is it that makes swimming good, specifically? That depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Swimming is a healthy activity that can be continued for a lifetime, and the health benefits swimming offers for a lifetime are worth the effort it takes to get to the swimming pool. It works practically all of the muscles in the body (if you do a variety of strokes). Swimming can develop a swimmer's general strength, cardiovascular fitness and endurance. It does not help with bone density - you need to weight bearing exercise for that - but that is about all that is missing from what swimming could do for your fitness.

Why do you swim? For the health benefits to your heart and lungs? For the chance to be with some of your friends at the pool? Because, in your case, running every day hurts? Because you like the feeling of floating and sliding through the water? Or is it something else?If you are looking for a break from the heat of the summer, then a dip in the water is exactly what you need; swimming is a way for you to cool off. It fills a wonderful recreational need for individuals and families, from beach and pool fun to water parks.

Maybe you are a runner, training on a regular basis, and want to find an activity that keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off of your body. Perhaps you have been doing some other form of land exercise, and now an injury prevents you from putting weight on a knee or ankle. Swimming can help you. Kicking workouts, water aerobics, pool running, or a regular swimming workout can all give you a great exercise session without the weight of your body pounding you with each move.

Regular swimming builds endurance, muscle strength and cardio-vascular fitness. It can serve as a cross-training element to your regular workouts. Before a dry land workout, you can use the pool for a warm-up session. Swimming with increasing effort to gradually increase your heart rate and stimulate your muscle activity is easily accomplished in the water. After a land workout, swimming a few laps can help you cool-down, move blood through your muscles to help them recover, and help you relax as you glide through the water.

Spending time in a group workout, whether water aerobics or a master's swim practice, is a great social outlet. Exchanging stories, challenging each other, and sharing in the hard work make swimming with others a rewarding experience.

There are other psychological benefit to swimming, if you allow it to occur. Relax and swim with a very low effort. Let your mind wander, focusing on nothing but the rhythm of your stroke. This form of meditation can help you gain a feeling of well-being, leaving your water session refreshed and ready to go on with the rest of your day. Many swimmers find an in-direct benefit form swimming. They develop life skills such as sportsmanship, time-management, self-discipline, goal-setting, and an increased sense of self-worth through their participation in the sport. Swimmers seem to do better in school, in general terms, than non-swimmers as a group.

Swimming does burn calories at a rate of about 3 calories a mile per pound of body weight. If you weigh 150 lbs. and it takes you 30 minutes to swim one mile (1,760 yards or 1,609 meters), then you will be using about 900 calories in one hour. However, many swimmers do not swim that quickly, and many cannot swim for that distance or duration, so swimming to lose weight is not always the best plan. Swimming does exercise almost the entire body - heart, lungs, and muscles - with very little joint strain. It is great for general fitness, just not a great way to drop excess pounds.

And I didn't mention the neat things chlorine and sun can do for the texture and color of your hair...

Swim on!!!

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