Swimming is fun. You get to splash around in a large pool of deliciously cool water and end up losing weight, getting in pretty good shape and have a lot of fun as well. However, learning to swim is completely another story. Trying to float your 70-odd kg of body weight that is used to sitting firmly on the ground is tough, but the effort does pay off in the long run. If you are a novice interested in swimming, here are a few things you should know.
The science behind trying to float
It’s not surprising that human babies can manage rudimentary locomotive swimming within a few weeks of birth. Swimming itself relies on using neutral buoyancy. As the human body is almost 90% water, floating naturally is completely possible. However, floating also depends on water content and body density.
For example, increased water salinity and higher levels of body fat can increase buoyancy. The human body is moderately less dense than water and this makes exercising in water a ‘low-impact’ activity. Normal people usually float in different ways and there are factors that impact buoyancy in water. For example, fatty tissue is lighter; however, the distribution of fatty tissue can affect flotation. For example, pear-shaped women who have a higher density of fat around their thighs will need far less effect to streamline their shape and reduce wave resistance while swimming. Lung volume also impact swimming. For example, inhalation will pull in air and floating becomes easier as the lungs and chest expand.
Hydrodynamics can also influence swimming and impact a swimmer’s speed. Competitive swimmers can learn to reduce water resistance and learn efficient swimming techniques to increase their speed.
Learning the technique
Several different swimming techniques are used all over the world. Swim strokes are also different and competitive swimming uses different strokes to create swimming classes. There are four main strokes used all over the world; front crawl, breaststroke, butterfly, and the backstroke. Untrained swimmers usually use a doggy paddle or combination of arm and leg movements to propel themselves through the water. Other strokes are also used depending on specific uses.
Competitive swimming is managed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA). Competitive swimming competitions are held all through the year. During the season, swimmers train several times a week to compete in events. Swimming has also been a part of Olympics since 1896 and several events are part of the competition. Athletes may need to invest in safety clothing and equipment for competitive swimming. For example, men’s swimsuits are briefs or shorts while women usually have skintight suits from neck to thigh. Competitive swimwear is also designed to make the swimmer as sleek as possible in the water while being as light as possible. Accessories like ear plugs, eye shields, noseclips and swimcaps are required as well. For training, pull buoys, kickboards, swimfuns, finger paddles, pool noodles, and snorkels may also be used.
Be a water baby; be healthy
Swimming is wonderful way to exercise and is highly recommended as a low impact exercise option as well. Here are a few of the top benefits of swimming daily.
• Increased muscle tone and strength are the immediate benefits of swimming daily. Swimmers have noted increased muscle tone and strength over the entire body as compared to runners or niche athletes. This is because swimming involves the entire body. When the leg muscles kick, the arm muscles pull resulting in an upper and lower body coordinated workout. At the same time, the back rotates, and core muscles engage making swimming a full body workout. If you don’t believe us, take a closer look at Michael Phelps physique and that should be enough inspiration.
• Its easy on your joints while still causing weight loss. Exercise is usually low impact or high impact designed to be easy or hard on your joints respectively. Swimming is different as it combines the benefits of both options. Moreover, the cushioning effect of water can drastically reduce your chances of injury while still resulting in a full body workout. Swimming is particularly beneficial for people who have arthritis as it seems to reduce joint stiffness and pain and improve joint inflammation. Weight loss is a considerable benefit associated with swimming. For example, about 20 minutes of swimming will result in about 120 calories burned and overall increase in muscle tone, strength and endurance. Depending on the swim stroke used, more than 400 calories can be burned every 30 minutes.
• Not many people know this, but swimming can improve conditions like depression, stress and asthma. In a recent study, an improvement in asthma symptoms was noted in subjects who were on a six-week swimming program. The benefits continued even after the swimming program ended. The workout caused by swimming also cause a release of happy hormones or endorphins that boost mood and relax the body. Combine this with the deep rhythmic breathing that is required in swimming and the benefits become obvious. Another benefit noted was that long term swimming resulted in children who mastered language skills faster, had better motor skills and overall confidence.
• Improved recovery times are also noted in regular swimmers. Swimmers have reported lesser aches and pains from long-term injuries as the buoyancy offered by water can reduce pressure on injuries and reduce pain.
• Swimming boosts cardiovascular health as it is a whole-body exercise. Improved blood circulation is noted as the heart must work harder. The natural buoyancy of water also hides the intensity of training and users have reported being able to workout harder in water routines resulting in improved heart functioning.
Cons of swimming
Of course, every sport has its pros and cons and swimming is no different. Here are a few common dangers associated with the sport.
• Health issues are a concern if you are swimming in open water. Contaminated water or water containing pathogens may result in the swimmer falling ill due to allergic reactions, skin rashes, etc. Water contamination by bacteria can also result in systemic infections like stomach upsets, skin infections and fevers.
• Currents are a serious concern while swimming in open water. Large breaking waves, rip currents and undertows have killed thousands of swimmers all over the world. This is specially dangerous for young children, novice swimmers and elderly swimmers.
• Drowning due to exhaustion or negligence is a common concern and even swimming pools can be dangerous if not properly supervised.
• Chronic conditions like swimmer’s ear and athletes foot are common conditions that may occur in competitive swimmers.
• Chemical exposure and electrical shocks are issues that occur around swimming pools and are quite common.
Although these dangers may seem quite scary, they are completely preventable. Most public swimming areas are clearly designated. Public beaches will also have lifeguards and clear boards recommending swimming areas and times. Ensure you wear safety gear like eye protectors and ear protectors while swimming. Ideally avoid unknown open swim areas or check with the local authorities before using the area. For artificial swim areas like public swimming pools, make sure that the pool is checked regularly and has a full-time lifeguard. Ensure children are supervised at all times near a pool with a fulltime caretaker. Be aware of the pool depth and follow the restrictions that are provided.
Proper precautions and common sense can reduce most of these risks making swimming a fun activity for the entire family.
Accessible and affordable is probably the main USP of swimming. Almost every town and city will have a public swimming pool and discounted rates during off hours are common. Just look around your city or Google it to find a local swimming pool that offers classes. For experienced swimmers, the repetitive exercise may turn out to be boring. However, most public pools will also offer water aerobics and water polo that are a fun way to add variety to your swimming routine.
In some countries, swimming is a mandatory part of the school curriculum and you may have learned swimming in the past. In case you aren’t confident about your skills, find a pool with an instructor and take it slowly. Aim for about 30 minutes a week if you are just starting and then ramp it up. This will help you gain confidence and regain your skills.
For complete novices, find a pool with a certified instructor and focus on learning skills rather than speed. Learning it slowly but correctly will improve your endurance and strength. Even if you are taking a longer time to learn swimming, you can just as easily use the shallow part of the pool to exercise. Trainers offer special water weights and floatation devices to novice swimmers allowing them to workout while still learning to float.
We hope that this informative article will push you towards learning swimming. For more information of the benefits of swimming, feel free to write in to us and we will be happy to respond.