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Swimming: Time to take the plunge?

The health and fitness benefits of swimming
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Going for a dip in the swimming pool doesn’t have to be as gruelling as training for an Olympic medal or cross-channel swim.

We can all set ourselves swimming targets to get us toned and fit as we inch towards summer.

Swimming is a brilliant all-round exercise. It benefits the body and the mind and what’s more it’s fun!

It’s good for your health, good for fitness and can help you lose weight. Whatever your age or ability swimming is an option. If you are nervous in the water it’s never too late to have lessons. Most pools and leisure centres have a range of classes for different ages and abilities.

Swimming is good for your health

Swimming regularly may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases in some people. It can also make you feel better.

The ASA is the national governing body for all things swimming. It published a report that looked at health and fitness research from around the globe. The evidence shows swimming may help increase your life expectancy and save your life, and that’s not just by stopping you drowning!

The report called, "Swimming, taking the plunge for a fitter lifestyle", highlights how swimming cuts men’s risk of dying early by about 50% compared to runners, walkers and those who don’t do any activities.

It found regular swimming is also great for both sexes because it is likely to reduce heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes by about 535 cases in 100,000 people.

David Sparkes, the ASA Chief Executive, said, "It’s quite simple really. By swimming you’ll be improving your health but more importantly you may actually remember how much fun it is!"

NHS guidelines suggest for health benefits adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on five or more days a week.

A 30-minute session at the pool on one or more days a week will count towards your recommended weekly activity target but any amount of time exercising no matter how long or short is good for you.

When you swim you can let your mind float away. Once you get into it, it can become almost like a meditative trance!

The ASA believes that swimming can offer a sense of mental wellbeing; something which can’t easily be measured but is anecdotally mentioned by thousands of participants.

"Swimming clears the mind, encourages positivity in individuals and builds a sense of self worth that is not truly calculable. In short, it can make people feel better."

Fitness and weight loss

For most of us swimming is a safe form of exercise. If you have any worries about your health see your GP before starting swimming.

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