OK, so you may not have been swimming since your school days and the thought of swimming again terrifies you? We often think of swimming as an activity reserved for children who enjoy splashing around and having lots of fun. But did you know that swimming is one of the best all round exercises for the older generation? There are so many health benefits to this wonderful activity that I thought I would dedicate a whole blog post on this. So what are the main benefits of swimming and how it can help you as an individual? As ever, please see your GP before starting any new exercise regime.
As we get older, we can start to suffer from joint pain and stiffness. I often feel my joints stiffen if I have been sat still for some time or first thing in the morning. Joint pain can be felt all over the body but the knees and hips are common sites for aching joints. Swimming is an excellent activity for relieving and easing joint pain. Swimming is a non weight bearing sport and so your body is fully supported by the water. In fact around 90% of your body weight is supported by the water. This buoyancy eliminates the pressure on the joints and thereby reduces any stiffness. Swimming is particularly good for arthritis, whether it is established arthritis or early onset. If the pool is heated (as most indoor pools are) then this also of great benefit to the person with aching joints as the heat eases the painful symptoms.
Older adults find that with time they are not as flexible as they used to be. I certainly have to work on my flexibility even though I used to do gymnastics as a youngster. I am certainly no gymnast now! Swimming is a perfect activity for improving flexibility. Swimming uses a wide range of motion through your joints and muscles and this helps improve flexibility. The action of swimming actually stretches out your body and limbs and this helps increase flexibility.
Swimming builds muscle strength faster and more effectively than traditional cardio exercises as the constant pushing and pulling against the water has a much higher resistance than air. By using the water’s resistance it is much easier to achieve improved muscle strength. Different swimming strokes can help with different sets of muscles so it is advisable to ask one of the trained swim instructors or personal trainers for more help if you want to target certain muscle groups. You can also use equipment in the pool to help you achieve more muscle strength, such as floats which you can use to target upper or lower body. Once again, it is important to ask for advice from a trained instructor.
Swimming is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise and a great workout for your heart. As we age, it is important for us to keep our heart in tip top condition. Our heart is a muscle and therefore should be cared for in the same way (if not more) as other muscles in our body. During cardiovascular exercise the blood flows quicker and the heart beats faster. This improves circulation and lowers blood pressure which cuts the risk of a heart attack.
There is an increased risk of falling as we get older. This is due to natural deterioration of our core stability, so it is important that we work on improving this. Swimming helps improve coordination and general stability in the body while moving through the water. Research has shown that this helps a person’s core stability while walking on land. Therefore this can significantly reduce the risk of falling.
Stress, anxiety and depression can hit us at any age but the older generation can be especially prone to it. This can be due to dramatic life changes such as loss of a partner, age related illness, empty nest syndrome and retirement which can trigger loneliness. Any form of exercise can help improve mental health and swimming is perfect for this as it is easy to do and it is very relaxing. Swimming usually involves interaction with other swimmers and this can help people feel less isolated. Most gyms have swimming classes and so it is a great way to meet others.
As you know I am a member at the David Lloyd Club in Harrogate. Being a member of this Club means I have access to state of the art gym equipment, a wide choice of classes AND a fabulous indoor heated swimming pool. So, what can I tell you about the pool facilities at this club.
Well, the pool is 17.5m which is a really good size for length swimming. At the side of the pool there is a sauna, steam room and experience shower which are great activities to follow your swim. I really enjoy using the steam room and sauna as I find them relaxing and I love the heat as it warms my body up. There is also a whirlpool which I always use following my swim.
If you are new to swimming do not worry. The Club has trained swimming coaches who can help you find your confidence. There is a fabulous class that I really enjoy called Aqua. This is a fun class that incorporates aerobic exercises in the pool, using the water as resistance. This is a great way to get you back into the pool and this class is suitable for all levels. As mentioned before a class like this is a good way of meeting others and you get fit in the process.
Please click here for a link to the Club and what they offer for swimming.
Swimming is a fabulous all round exercise which is especially beneficial for the over 50’s. Trust me, as someone who is now over 55, I really consider swimming as an essential part of my life. Swimming really is for everyone, regardless of age and ability. The warm water is so relaxing and as it supports your body while exercising, it really is the perfect exercise for older people. If you haven’t been in a pool for many years I do understand that you may feel daunted by swimming. My advice is to choose a club where you can get expert advice and help as this will make you feel more confident. Interacting with a qualified instructor and letting them know your fears can be enough to give you that spark of confidence needed to get you in the pool.
As swimming is a low impact sport, it really is perfect for beginners and those returning to exercise after a long break. It is easy on your joints and muscles and even gives your heart a good work out. Along with the benefits to your mental health, I am confident that swimming will change your life for the better. I do understand it can take a lot of effort and courage to start swimming, but once you make that decision, I can honestly say you will never regret it.
Let me know in the comments if you like swimming. Do you want to start swimming but not sure where to start?
Until next time dear friends
** This post is sponsored by the David Lloyd Club in Harrogate but as ever the words and views in this post are my own **