As well as helping with fitness and weight loss, a regular swim in your local pool can boost your mental health and sex life.
Swimming is well-known as a low-impact exercise that can give your entire body a workout. It can also help you to shape up and feel less stressed. However, that’s just scratching the surface of how swimming can improve your life. Did you know that it can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety and even improve your sex life?
So next time you feel like trying a new sport, jump in the pool – you don’t need much equipment and, after a few regular pool drills, you’ll see improvements throughout your life. Health writer Howard Calvert finds out the most surprising benefits of swimming…
1. Swimming can help you de-stress instantly
It’s been proven that exercise can help with mental health problems, and swimming in particular can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. A recent survey by YouGov and Swim England revealed that 3.3 million British adults with mental health problems swim regularly. Of that group, 43% said that swimming made them feel happier. It also revealed that 490,000 people had reduced, or no longer take, medication for their mental health after taking up swimming.
“Getting into the water for a refreshing swim gets the blood flowing and releases endorphins, which triggers a positive feeling in your body,” explains Kerry-Lee Pohl, Swim Manager at Virgin Active. “Swimming also has the benefits of companionship with other swimmers.”
2. It could ease your asthma symptoms
If you‘re an asthma sufferer, you’ll know that certain exercises can trigger breathing difficulties more readily than others. But swimming has, for some asthma sufferers, proved to improve lung function and breathing techniques. And asthma hasn’t stopped some of Britain’s greatest swimmers – Rebecca Adlington and Adrian Moorhouse were both asthma sufferers.
“Swimming supports those suffering from asthma as the environment of an indoor pool with its high humidity helps keep the airways open,” says Pohl. “Some outdoor sports such as running or cycling can dry out the airways. This is one of the main reasons for an asthma attack.”
It should be noted, however, that chlorine can trigger some people’s asthma, so always have your inhaler with you poolside.
3. It can improve your posture
No one needs reminding that sitting hunched over a desk all day is bad news for almost every muscle in your body. Swimming could be an answer to sorting out those rounded shoulders and neck issues. Studies have shown that swimming regular lengths will strengthen your , assisting you in standing taller and straighter.
“Being able to exercise in a horizontal position in what feels like a weightless environment (neutral buoyancy) is a fantastic way to counteract the many hours we spend in the ‘text neck’ position,” says Pohl. “There is no hard impact on the back, knees and hips like in running, or the forward curved position when cycling.”
4. It lowers blood pressure
According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, swimming is one of the best exercises for (which affects one in four adults in the UK). Plus, combining a trip to the pool with a sauna could have even more heart-happy effects, say researchers in Finland. This is because the high temperature boosts your heart rate and therefore lowers your blood pressure. Check out these swimming exercises to get your blood pumping.
5. It can improve brain capacity and memory
The brain’s hippocampus, which is associated with forming new memories, has been shown to grow with exercise, and will also increase oxygen going to the brain. As a result, swimming results in more oxygen going to the brain, which has memory-boosting effects.
Studies have also shown that submersing your body in water up to heart level, which also increases blood flow to the brain. “With the extra flow of blood to your brain, swimming can promote ‘hippocampal neurogenesis’. This is the growth of new brain cells in the part of the brain that is most commonly destroyed by stress and depression,” says Pohl.
6. It can increase your libido
A study of 160 swimmers in their 40s and 60s by Harvard University found a positive relationship between regular physical exercise and the frequency and enjoyment of sex.
“Research has also suggested that swimming is a fantastic exercise to tone the pelvic floor muscles, which can heighten the sexual experience. As mentioned, swimming increases libido by reducing stress – one of the main causes of low libido.”
Inspired by all the benefits of swimming? If you’re a Vitality member, why not log in to Member Zone to link your activity tracker to the Vitality app so you can track your swimming and be rewarded with our Active Rewards?