Keeping fit both physically and mentally is important for all of us but even more so as we get older.
There are so many different forms of exercise to choose from: walking, running, racquet sports, team games, cycling to name but a few.
But when it comes to finding one that is 100% natural, healthy, enjoyable and endorsed by doctors, physiotherapists and the NHS, it is swimming that tops the list.
So, what is it that makes swimming such a good form of exercise? Why is swimming good for older people?
Read on and discover why you may well be dusting off that old swimming cap and goggles if you’re looking to get fit and healthy!
Benefits of Swimming for Over 50s
To give you some insights into the benefits of swimming, we’ve highlighted some of the top reasons below:
Believe it or not, swimming gives your cardio-vascular system the same sort of work-out as a full-on dance or aerobics class.
If you’re not swimming, you’re sinking and that constant movement translates directly into a higher heart rate, keeping your heart muscle healthier, boosting circulation and improving blood pressure.
As you push and pull yourself through the water, arms and legs are combatting water resistance all the time, forcing both major and minor muscles to flex, tone and strengthen.
Did you know that an hour’s muscle use in swimming is far more comprehensive than any other form of exercise out there? In fact, an hour’s swimming surpasses any muscle use in a one hour weight training session where only individual, isolated muscles are worked on.
Swimming is the only form of exercise out there that reaps whole body benefits as soon you start to move through the water. Water bears your weight whilst the whole body is involved in keeping afloat.
Moving does not hurt as with other physical exercises and there is little or no chance of injury but your body is now participating in a full work-out. It is this unique property of water and its propensity to support all muscles and limbs that makes swimming a top recommendation by doctors and physiotherapists alike.
There’s no doubt about it, life can be stressful. And stress in turn can impact significantly both on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Swimming is a great way to destress both physically and mentally with a dip in the pool releasing those feel-good endorphins and providing the satisfaction of a good work-out at one and the same time.
Sometimes it’s all too easy to stay curled up inside, particularly during winter months.
Disciplining yourself to go swimming on a regular basis not only gets you out of the house and improve your fitness levels but it also provides a focus to your day and affords the opportunity to meet new like-minded people.
If you’re shy at getting started on your own, perhaps you have a friend you could encourage to go with you? Going with a friend of similar ability will help keep you motivated: neither of you will want to let the other down by not turning up and you can be mutually supportive both in and out of the water.
Consider too joining a club if you want to get even more out of swimming. This can be a great way to make new friends, improve your skills and ensure regular attendance and exercise.
Many clubs also run social events away from the pool with trips and visits out. Before you know it, you’re not only feeling so much healthier and fitter but life has become an exciting new social whirl!
As we get older, bones lose density, muscle mass reduces and joints stiffen and weaken.
This is in turn can lead to our much loved forms of exercise such as tennis, football or jogging becoming more difficult: in continuing to pursue these favourite sports, we run the risk of exacerbating old injuries, putting strain on our muscles and joints and making ourselves more vulnerable to aches, pains, fractures, falls and loss of mobility.
Swimming on the other is a low impact form of exercise with the body supported at all time in the water thus enabling exercise without the risk of injury.
Not only that, because swimming is not a weight-bearing activity, it has actually been proven to improve bone density, posture and balance and to alleviate and delay the painful symptoms of arthritis.
Swimming not only makes you fitter, stronger and more flexible but boosts your metabolism and burns calories. That in turn equates to losing weight. Energy expenditure in water has been shown to be up to 4x higher over a given distance than the same distance run on land.
Yes, it may take you longer to cover that distance and your entire body is working harder than on land but you are burning more calories and shedding more weight in the process: it’s a win-win scenario!
If you’re wondering, “how many laps should I swim to lose weight?”, the answer is very much dependent on other factors such as diet, lifestyle as well as things like genetics. Nevertheless, it is still a great method for those looking to shed some pounds! Like any form of exercise, you can start small and increase the volume and intensity over time as you feel more confident and capable.
Swimming Workouts and Exercises for Over 50s
As well as all the different swimming strokes (e.g. breast stroke, front crawl, back stroke, etc), getting yourself down to the local pool offers plenty of varied and effective aerobic workouts too.
Even exercises like jogging in the water can be highly effective rehabilitation exercises.
The low impact nature of performing any exercise in water means that it can be really beneficial for getting started with fitness in later life.
Watch the video below for swimming workout ideas and exercises. These cover things like:
- Leg Raises
- Side Jumps
The possibilities are endless – why not start the day with some pool yoga!
Swimming Lessons for Adults
Although many of us learn to swim when we’re young, you can have swimming lessons at any age.
It’s just like using a personal trainer.
Swimming lessons would be really recommended if you want to see results quickly. If you can’t swim at all, then having lessons obviously needed, but even if you feel confident swimming, having a swimming coach to offer recommendations to improve your technique and strokes could make all the difference down the line.
Swimming lessons provide a framework to monitor progress and get a constant feedback loop, which help keep you motivated and on target to hit your fitness goals.
Get Started Today
As you can see the benefits of swimming are far-reaching: building core strength, increasing stamina, keeping you fit, alleviating stress, little or no risk of harm to soft tissues, tendons or muscles – there really is no other physical activity quite like it! And getting started is easy: no need think about what equipment to buy, all you need is a costume or trunks.
But as with all forms of physical activity, be sensible. If you have an underlying health condition, consult with your GP first. It is on the rarest of occasions that you will be discouraged as swimming is simply so good for your health.
And take it gently: if you think you have to swim a marathon the first time you get in the water, you’ll derive no pleasure from the activity whatsoever but will simply end up exhausted and loathe to do again!
So what’s stopping you? To find pools near you, use https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/Sports-and-Fitness/LocationSearch/1795 or contact your local authority.
Make today the day – and have fun!