The first thing that comes to mind when you think about exercising to lose weight is usually jogging or biking, and these activities will burn calories – but at a cost. Running and biking can be pretty hard on your joints and require hours of tedious effort before you begin to see results.
But, there is an alternative.
Swimming is one of the most joint-safe, effective ways to enjoy a full body workout proven to melt away fat, tone and strengthen muscles, and avoid the risk of injury that many other exercise programs present.
Just take a look at the physiques on U.S. Olympic swimmers such as Michael Phelps and Allison Schmidt. Long, lean muscles and marvelously lean waists are the rule for people who make swimming a routine part of their fitness regimen. What is it about swimming that makes it such an amazing way to keep fit?
We're going to examine the reasons behind the health benefits and effectiveness of this fun sport and learn how to maximize your results while avoiding a major pitfall that could derail your weight loss efforts!
Health benefits of swimming
You would be hard pressed to find another fitness activity that will provide a total body workout while avoiding the injury risks of most other workout regimes. The weightless quality of a pool is a unique environment for several reasons:
- Make no mistake: Your body is working hard when you are in the water. Since it is denser than air, water creates more external resistance on your limbs than dry land exercise. But it gets better; that pressure is also uniformly distributed. There's no excess strain on your knees, hips or any other spots that could bear too much of the burden when you train with gravity dragging you down.
- Your breathing during a swim is also different; when running or biking, your breathing is usually shallower, with forceful exhalations. Swimming reverses this pattern. You will have to breathe in quickly and deeply, and slowly let the air trickle out. These adjustments to your breathing may significantly improve the strength of your respiratory muscles.
- Swimming is a lot more fun than most other forms of exercise. Although most people who begin an exercise program quit after a few months, swimmers tended to stick with it much longer.
- Who doesn't want to look great! Swimmers have amazing, healthy physiques. From Johnny Weissmuller (the most famous Tarzan) to the current crop of Olympic swim champions, they all exude vitality and a sexy sleekness.
- Swimming is a total body workout that teaches your muscles and nerves to work in concert while giving you the benefits of both cardio and resistance training in a single workout.
Why swimming is so effective
Depending on the swim style you use, you will be able to work out almost every single muscle in the body while keeping your heart and lungs working hard. And swimming has another unique feature you will not find in any other weight loss activity: the water itself.
Water leeches heat away from you at a much greater rate than air; even relatively warm water (about 70-75 degrees) will place a huge demand on your metabolism as it struggles to maintain your normal body temperature. Your body is forced to stoke the calorie burning fires, turbocharging your weight loss! Just being in the water helps you to melt off unwanted fat.
You will still need patience
Ideally, you should devote about an hour to your swim sessions.
Funny word, that; what is ideal and what you can accomplish are frequently at odds with each other when you begin an exercise program. Two things will happen to most neophyte swimmers:
1) They will jump in the pool and knock out that first lap in about five minutes.
2) They will hang on to the side of the pool trying to catch their breath for the next five minutes.
Do not be disappointed or discouraged. Swimming is a really intense activity, and it takes time to refine your technique, stop fighting the water, and learn to move efficiently from one end of the pool to the other.
Meanwhile, console yourself with the fact that you are burning even more calories during the learning and strengthening phase than you will when you have become more skilled and efficient.
Watch out for this
Just being in the water is making you burn more calories than usual.
Couple that with the demands of a total body workout that strengthens your muscles and cardiovascular system, and you are going to jump out of that pool hungry. Remember how you felt after a day just wading at the beach?
Weight loss is a function of consuming fewer calories than you burn. Did I mention that you are going to feel so hungry after an hour in the water? Exercise a modicum of self-control and do not get carried away trying to fill that hole in your stomach.
The best way to lose weight by swimming
For the best results, you will need to mix it up.
Do not stick to just one stroke, because each of the most commonly used swim styles will emphasize different muscles and joints.
Varying how you travel from one end of the pool to the other will ensure a more balanced physique and prevent possible overuse injury from doing the same repetitive motions over a long period of time.