Whether you're 50plus or not there is only one form of exercise that is fun, healthy and endorsed by doctors, physiotherapists and the NHS - swimming!
I have enjoyed swimming all my life, but even if you haven't been swimming since school days, the lockdown is coming to an end and public pools will be opening soon so this summer could be a great time to take the plunge again.
Here are five reasons why swimming is so good for people who are 50plus:
1. Cardio-Vascular System
Swimming gives you the same kind of cardio-vascular workout as a full-on dance or aerobics class. The constant movement required to swim translates directly into a higher heart rate, keeping your heart muscle healthier, boosting circulation and improving blood pressure. This trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently and is generally reflected in declines in the resting heart rate and breathing rate.
2. Muscle Strength
The demands that swimming puts on all your major muscle groups will help strengthen and sculpt your body. Overcoming the resistance of the water as you swim forces both your major and minor muscle groups to work constantly. Everything gets a workout! Swimming is the only form of exercise that engages your whole body from the start. By doing different strokes (breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, sidestroke, and freestyle) you can work all the muscles in your body in a single workout.
3. Low impact.
Injuries are one of the biggest problems that we face when training at 50plus. As we get older, bones lose density, muscle mass reduces and joints weaken. Many loved exercises such as tennis, football and jogging become more difficult. The risk of exacerbating old injuries, putting strain on our muscles and joints is increased. When we swim the water supports our whole body. This reduces the chance of impact type injuries associated with other forms of exercise. "As a low-impact activity, swimming places minimal stress on the joints," says Sarah Ellison, an aquatic physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. "The buoyancy of the water allows you to move limbs and joints more easily through their normal range of motion. It is this unique property of water and its propensity to support all muscles and limbs that makes swimming a top recommendation by doctors and physiotherapists alike.
4. Stress Relief
We all know that life (especially over the last couple of years) can be stressful. Stress can be bad for everyone, but for men over 50 like us, it can have a devastating impact on both our physical and mental health wellbeing. From personal experience, I can say that swimming is a great way to de-stress both physically and mentally. A dip in the pool can release those feel-good endorphins associated with working out.
5. Weight Loss
Swimming not only makes you fitter, stronger and more flexible but boosts your metabolism and burns calories. The amount burned will depend on how much you weigh and how fast you swim. Energy expenditure in water can be up to 4x higher over a given distance than the same distance run on land.
Swimming Lessons for Adults
Although I started to swim at school it's never too late to learn. Swimming lessons are available at most pools. If you can’t swim at all, then obviously you'll need lessons, but even if you can swim, having a swimming coach to improve your technique makes a big difference in how much you get out of your time in the water. Swimming lessons provide a framework to monitor progress and get a constant feedback loop, which helps keep you motivated and on target to hit your fitness goals.
Note: Whether you have an underlying health condition, or not as with any new exercise check with your doctor before you start.
That's it. If you fancy taking the plunge when the pools open, remember to check with your doctor, take it easy and enjoy yourself.
To find pools near you, use https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/Sports-and-Fitness/LocationSearch/1795 or contact your local authority.
Make today the day – and have fun!