What are the 6 benefits of swimming?

6 health benefits of swimming

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
Ask Louise

23 August 2021

What are the 6 benefits of swimming?

Swimming has many health benefits. It improves memory, elevates mood, helps support the immune system, increases blood flow throughout the body to aid circulation and reduces blood pressure for good heart health, burns calories and tones muscles for weight loss and reduces pain and stiffness in joints and muscles.

6 health benefits of swimming

Let's take a closer look at just how swimming can benefit our health.

1. Improves memory

Swimming can be particularly helpful in learning and forming memories. One reason for this is that swimming increases blood flow to the brain. It also aids a process called neurogenesis where neurons are formed. Neurons receive information from the brain, but also identify changes in the internal and external environment and are responsible for sending that information to the brain. On top of this, aerobic activities have been found to protect and repair neurons, further supporting processes like memory. (1)

2. Elevates mood

Swimming is an aerobic activity that can increase levels of serotonin which can help to improve mood, decrease anxiety and reduce depression. (2) Not only this, it can be a social activity and, for some, the repetitive motions of swimming can even come as a form of meditation. Both of these factors can be calming and elevate mood.

3. Supports the immune system

Cold water swimming has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years as the health benefits it has to offer become more and more well known. One area, in particular, that this activity is thought to benefit is immune function.

Cold water swimmers have been found to have fewer bouts of illness. (3) This could be down to the fact that swimming is a form of low-impact stress that triggers the release of some stress-fighting hormones. This, over time, may help to prepare the body to fight infections when they come around. (4)

4. Reduces high blood pressure and increases circulation

Swimming uses several muscle groups meaning the heart is forced to work hard. This increases blood flow throughout the body and ultimately supports circulation. Swimming has also been found to help lower blood pressure in those suffering from high levels. (5)

A study involving 80,000 adults found that swimming was connected with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, as well as a reduced risk of all-cause mortality. (6)

5. Helps weight loss

As a form of aerobic activity that burns calories and tones muscles, swimming can be effective in contributing to weight loss when done on a regular basis. (7)

6. Reduces pain and stiffness in muscles and joints

Swimming is a particularly good option for those with muscle and joint problems like arthritis and back pain. The buoyancy of the water takes the weight off the joint, avoiding stress or impact on this area. The water also facilitates easy movement which may increase flexibility, reduce pain and improve quality of life. (8)

In one study, adults with osteoarthritis were assigned a 12-week exercise plan involving either cycling or swimming. Both had a very positive impact on symptoms, including:

  • Less inflammation
  • Reduced pain
  • Less stiffness
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Improved muscle function (9)

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