Swimming is an excellent form of exercise. It helps you work on your strength, fitness and stamina at the same time. While it may not be the best form of cardio for weight loss it does burn calories. A 75 kg person can approximately burn 900 calories per hour while swimming at 2kmph.
Cardio + Strength training?
It’s a great form of cardio because while jogging or running just engages the lower body, swimming targets almost every muscle in the body at the same time. The heart pumps more blood, the lungs work harder when you breathe between strokes and other moving muscles like your biceps, triceps, thighs and calf muscles are all called into action. Also the water provides natural resistance to your body. The faster you swim the more resistance your muscles are subjected to resulting in muscle development without putting undue pressure on your joints that strength training might provide.
How often should one swim?
Swimming twice a week is good enough for starters and the amount of time or distance you cover doesn’t really matter. It all depends with how comfortable you are. Like any other physical activity, once your body gets used to it you should up the ante. If you’re comfortable swimming for half an hour, increase your duration. Or you could try covering more distance in the same amount of time.
What are the different strokes?
There are basically four different strokes – breast, freestyle, back and butterfly.
1. Breast stroke: It is the easiest and often the first stroke taught to beginners It helps beginners overcome underwater breathing issues.
2. Freestyle or Front Crawl stroke: It is the most widely used technique as it is the fastest swimming stroke where your body is flat and your face is down. Every two or three strokes you need to look away to breathe and look down again to gain speed with your legs kicking the water as you use your arms and cup your palms to gain maximum speed off the water.
3. The Back Crawl or the Backstroke: It is a therapeutic technique which is advisable for people with back injuries. You lie flat on your back and kick the water while your arms go towards your head and move your body in the water.
4. The Butterfly Stroke: It is the hardest swimming stroke possible. To master this stroke you push your body in and out of the water facing down till you need to breathe and then start this motion all over again. This technique requires experience and takes time to master.
Who should avoid swimming?
People with cardiovascular problems need to be careful. Studies have also shown that people who suffer from asthma, allergic rhinitis and other sorts of allergies should be vigilant particularly because of the high chlorine content in most swimming pools. It is also known to increase the risk of sinusitis and sore throat. If you have a back injury it’s a good idea to stick to the backstroke. This particular stroke relaxes the back muscles and causes relief by gently exercising the stiffened back muscles.
How important is a coach?
If you have to learn swimming from scratch then a coach is required to teach you the proper technique. He/she also doubles as a lifeguard and can judge whether you’re ready for the deep-end or not.
Are there any precautions to keep in mind?
It’s important to not swim right after eating. One should ideally do some light exercises before jumping into the pool. Drink lots of water before you swim to avoid dehydration which can cause cramps in your legs. Beginners should ideally have a coach or only swim when there are lifeguards around. To keep the chlorine at bay you can use eye goggles and swimming caps.
Should pregnant women avoid swimming?
While swimming is a very good form of exercise for pregnant women, one should consult a doc before jumping into the pool. Many research studies have been conducted on the subject and they show that swimming causes no risk to the mother or the baby. The water, chlorine and bacteria have no negative effects on the growth of the foetus. However, mothers-to-be should avoid the sauna or a hot tub.
Can swimming affect my skin and hair?
Yes. The chlorine in the water may contain some copper which can leave your hair with a slight greenish tinge. There are various swimming shampoos one can use to get rid of the copper residue. It can also make your hair dry and brittle. To avoid this wear a bathing cap and wash your hair with a conditioner afterwards. Chlorine affects your skin as well. That’s why it’s very important to take a shower after swimming. Apply a thin layer of skin cream to replenish the moisture on your skin. Drinking lots of water before and after swimming also helps. If you swim in a natural water body or in an uncovered pool then you should apply some waterproof sunscreen about half an hour before you start swimming.
Are there any health risks?
However, if you have injuries particularly open wounds, they may take longer to heal. Prolonged exposure can also cause temporary wrinkling of the skin. Failure to wipe between your toes can result in athlete’s foot, a fungal infection caused by the excessive moisture. Excessive chlorine amounts can cause temporary irritation in your eyes and hardening of your hair strands. Less chlorine might result in the growth of germs that may be ingested and cause digestive problems.
Just keep the precautions we have mentioned in mind and you’re good to go.First Published: Aug 22, 2012 at 3:03 PM