Swimming: The Best Exercise! – by Grace Cruz

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If you’ve been aching to get moving, switch up your routine, or just leave the house these days, you’re not alone! Swimming is a great way to stay in shape and relax your mind and body. Here are just a few of the reasons why swimming is so good for you:

It’s good for your heart.

Swimming works every major muscle group, which means your heart increases the amount of blood it sends to your muscles and extremities while swimming. Working the heart in this way strengthens it and makes it more efficient. With consistent swimming practice, the heart gets better at sending blood farther with less effort. Your circulation improves (no more cold or tingly hands and feet!) and your blood pressure and heart rate lower, decreasing your risk of heart disease. To reap the heart-healthy benefits of swimming, practice moderately at least 30 minutes every day.  

It strengthens your muscles.

Muscles become larger and stronger when they repeatedly work against resistance. The stress of lifting or pushing breaks down muscle fibers. The body then rebuilds the muscles to be stronger and more prepared for further stress. Swimming provides an excellent source of gentle resistance to build muscles; water is denser than air, so muscles that are activated underwater have to work at a greater than usual capacity. For this reason, even gentle walking can help build muscle.

Stronger muscles are more resistant to injury or damage, help you maintain a healthy body weight, and can even protect joints. Did you know water walking alone targets your feet, calf, leg, hip, ab, and back muscles? Water aerobic exercises and equipment can help you target particular muscle groups, or you can practice your swim strokes for a full-body workout routine. Just ask our Water Aeorbics class instructor, Tara!

It projects your joints while you exercise.

Land movements can often be hard on your joints. The weight of the body rests on joints, and movements that are strong enough to raise the heart rate are often strong enough to put extra pressure on joints. Water exercise, on the other hand, them a break from holding you up! The water supports about 90% of your body weight, freeing you to move vigorously against the resistance of the water, build muscle, and improve your heart health!

It relaxes your mind and body.

Times are tough right now, and anxious thoughts can increase our stress and jeopardize our health. When you worry, your body can activate your fight or flight response, which puts a strain on your body and mind. Ignoring your fear can prevent your body from letting go of its emergency response. The good news is that exercise, especially swimming, is a proven way to reduce this stress! In fight or flight, your body wants to MOVE to confront or escape the threat, and swimming provides a way for your body to fulfill its desire to GO. After exercise, your body may feel that you have successfully confronted or evaded the source of your fear so you can start to let go of that stress.

Exercise also has a meditative effect that can help combat worry. It focuses the mind on the body’s movement while also controlling the rhythm of the body’s breathing. Focusing on the present moment helps remind the mind that compulsive, fearful thoughts do not have the power to harm. Rhythmic breathing tricks your body into thinking that it is already in a state of relaxation, such as sleep.

Finally, aerobic activity helps produce endorphins, which make you feel relaxed and happy. Your sleep may improve with regular exercise, which can help you maintain your weight and regulate your mood. When you feel yourself growing stronger and more capable through exercise, you can also start to feel more confident and happy with yourself and your body.

The Community Center pool is open—come join us to get fit and de-stress! Click here to see our pool hours and COVID procedures.

This content is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your health care provider before starting any exercise program. Speak to your physician or a qualified health care provider to discuss questions or concerns pertaining to your health.

Grace Cruz is the Aquatics Supervisor for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at 703.335.8872 x or via email at g.cruz@manassasparkva.gov.

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