Swimming is a low-impact form of exercise that is often beneficial to the overall health of patients of all ages and useful for injury rehabilitation. It is a way of exercising that is easier on the musculoskeletal system. Being in the water makes the human body more buoyant. This means that it weighs less and thus puts less stress on the body as a whole. Without having to bear all of the weight of the body that is so present on land, the body can work out joints and muscles with less stress on the overall mind and body of the patient. People with arthritis (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis) often particularly find even more benefit from this style of exercising. This is especially true if the pool is heated. This exercise is a type of hydrotherapy.
Health Benefits of Swimming
Strengthening muscles, getting aerobic exercise for the lungs, and stretching are some of the benefits from of swimming. This water activity also works out the entire body at the same time, with resistance exercise, leading to muscle toning and even bone strength, particularly for post-menopausal women. This low-impact exercise also improves flexibility in the joint and ligaments. A series of water-based exercises can also improve cardiovascular health. It does not only strengthen the heart, but aerobic exercise, like swimming, can “combat the body’s inflammatory response”. The lungs also improve with aerobic activity, and swimming can help with exercise-induced asthma. Weight and cholesterol controls are other benefits. Heart disease and diabetes risks lower with aerobic exercises, such as swimming.
The brain also reaps rewards from this kind of exercise. This is due to the release of positive endorphins and the rhythmic breathing involved. Swimming can be a form of meditation. Most people of all ages will find some benefit in swimming, from the very young to the very old. In a controlled environment, swimming is a very safe way of exercising every part of the patient, from the body to the mind and everything in between.1
In addition to, or as a way of replacing swimming, water aerobics is another form of an aerobically-focused exercise routine. It provides resistance training in waist deep water. Water allows for less gravity, and participants are able to keep their heads out of the water. This is particularly helpful for the elderly and for those who are not very strong swimmers. Though swimming is most often very safe, water aerobics provides an extra layer of precaution for those who are more nervous but still wish to work for the benefits that come from exercising in the water. Being in the water also prevents the body from overheating, so exercise sessions can last longer. Most exercises are done vertically, and some involve flotation devices, such as pool noodles.
Other names for water aerobics might be aquafit, aquatic fitness, and waterobics. In addition to the physical health benefits, water aerobics is very often also a class. This means that those who attend might find like-minded people and companionship during the sessions. Socializing very often makes working out easier, so patients might invite friends to attend their classes and try to become acquainted with those who are already in attendance. Even though it is very often a style of workout pursued by those who are older, almost anyone can seek out and participate in their local water aerobics classes.2
Swimming is not just for those who are seeking a comfortable but effective means of fitness and friendship. It can be used for injury recovery and rehabilitation. It is helpful for people with back injuries, for example, as it involves stretching, resistance, and it is low-impact, meaning that patients have to bear very little to no weight on their injured back or other areas of the body.3 Even those recovering from spinal surgery may find water exercises helpful during the healing process.
At first, the patient may just want to experience being “weightless”, as they are able to appreciate the experience of not needing to worry about physical ailments that weight bearing affects. Later, gentle and slow exercises in the water can be added as the patient develops the strength to incorporate more exercises with exertion. Eventually, patients can use regular sessions of this form of exercise for “life-long maintenance”.
It is recommended, for spinal surgery patients, to use only a pool. The ocean and sand can “load the vertebrae excessively”. While some patients will need special guidance and observation throughout their healing process, others who are less injured or further along in their recovery might be able to go out on their own and visit their local pool for some light, unguided exercises in between visits with their aquatic physical therapist. Water is an important part of recovery and rehabilitation, both when it is consumed and as a near-weightless, stress-free environment for treatment and healing.4
Learn more information about hydrotherapy benefits.