Looking to raise fitness and cut injuries? “Water de-weights the body, reducing stress on your joints and immediately reducing injury risk compared to other resistance training,” says Dr Mike Peyrebrune, an advisor to British Swimming’s elite coaches and performance scientists.
11 ways swimming beats the gym
Get your life preserver
Swim off the Stella
Just 22 minutes of front crawl burns the equivalent of a can of Stella (550ml fizzes with 221kcal). “It’s the stroke most swimmers can execute longest with the most intensity,” explains Peyrebrune. The crawl employs 44 muscles, including your obliques, abs, hip-flexors and glutes. An all-body workout that doesn’t demand tackling the deadlift.
Beat the bike
According to that riveting beach read, the Compendium of Physical Activities, 30 minutes vigorous swimming is equal to seven miles cycling at 14 mph. And with one cyclist killed on a UK road every three days, and 150,000 cyclists injured every year compared with only 14,000 swimmers, it’s a lot safer too.
Float like a butterfly
Powering through 45 minutes of the even-more-demanding butterfly ups your calorie burn to 600 –equivalent to a chicken tikka massala. Butterfly is a great workout for your shoulders, pecs and triceps. “If you can’t crack butterfly, then performing breast stroke arm movements with a pool float between your legs is similarly demanding,” says Terry Laughlin, author of Swimming Made Easy. Take a look at Speedo’s form video below to float like a butterfly, swim like a fish.
Strokes beat strokes
Three one hour pool sessions will slash your stroke risk: a 19-year study of 47,721 Finnish adults (isn’t that all of them?) found three hours of vigorous exercise such as swimming per week reduced stroke risk by 26%. Remember that when you’re struggling through those last few laps.
Boost your lung power
Research reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that after swimming an hour a day, three times a week for 10 weeks, subjects showed an 11% increase in their VO2 max (the lung’s ability to process oxygen). Treadmill-only training volunteers only registered a 1.5% increase. Jog on.
Swimming can double levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol while controlling the ‘bad’ LDL stuff, according to research at the University of Toledo in the US. Additional Harvard University research, suggests that raising HDL levels through weekly, vigorous exercise like swimming can slash your risk of a heart attack by 30%.
Back burns Mac
An hour of backstroke burns 500kcals – more than you’ll get in a Big Mac (492) – and a better option than weight training, which burns only 270 to 450 calories per hour. The lack of grunting is an added bonus.
Out swim the grim reaper
A 22-year Harvard study of 17,000 men found those who expend 2,000kcals per week exercising – that’s three to four pool sessions – have a life expectancy on average two years longer than those who don’t take the plunge.
Stay forever young
Indiana University tests on blood pressure, blood chemistry, lung function and muscle mass of swimmers over the age of 50 found their bodies were functioning at levels normally observed in much younger people. Physiological functional capacity typically declines by 0.5 to 1% per year from the age of 35, but after measuring age markers and comparing results with the general population, researchers concluded that by swimming two to three miles, three to five times a week, many of the evergreen amphibians postponed this natural decline until the age of 70. It must be something in the water.
No matter your level, swimming offers an immediate boost to your health and your physique. So whether you’re dipping a toe in or trying to shave seconds off your 200m, Speedo’s got the training plan for you.
Starter plan: go from novice to 24 nonstop laps. Improved muscle tone is just three weeks away.
Improver plan: hone your technique to get up to 2.5km swims. A longer life comes as standard.
Performer plan: go from fast lane to the podium and leave your friends trailing in your wake.