Swimming is an activity with several physical and mental health benefits. In all forms of swimming, the participant remains supine and floating in a body of water. They coordinate the movement of several muscles of the body with a rhythmic breathing pattern to propel themselves a particular distance. There are several methods by which this can be performed called strokes. Strokes that are recognized in the realm of sport include the front stroke, the backstroke, the breaststroke, and the butterfly.

Evidence of recreational swimming in prehistoric times has been found, with the earliest evidence dating to carbon-dated stone age wall paintings from some 10,000 years ago. Some of the earliest references to swimming date back to the ancient Greek texts, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and ancient Japanese scriptures from the first century BCE. However, it wasn’t until the early 19th century in England that swimming emerged as a competitive recreational activity, and until 1886 where swimming was included in the world’s first Olympic games in Athens, Greece.

Swimming is a workout that can be done throughout one’s lifetime primarily because it’s amendable to the abilities of the participant. For high performance athletes, swimming can serve as an opportunity to build endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness. The rhythmic and fixed intake of air with each stroke promotes greater lung capacity. The natural density of water replaces weights that would traditionally be required for resistance training on land. The repeated activation of muscle groups all over one’s body require the heart to pump harder to send more oxygen and blood to working tissues. The increased pumping strengthens one’s heart muscle, thereby improving an individual’s cardiovascular conditioning. Among the key muscle groups worked by almost all strokes are the deltoids and upper back muscles, the core abdominal muscles and obliques, the glutes, quadriceps, the hamstring, the pectoral muscles, and latissimus dorsi.

Swimming can be also regarded as a low-impact workout that confers several mental health benefits. For the casual swimmer, a few laps, when done leisurely in a community pool, or even a lake by the cottage, can provide a chance to unwind from the daily grind of school and work. It can also serve as a social experience when arranged with friends or simply with fellow swimmers. Swimming can also be a pleasant way to cool down on a hot summer’s day.

The US Census Bureau reports that only two hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, can significantly reduce one’s risk of developing several chronic illnesses. Akin to other forms of physical activity, swimming has been closely tied to improved cognitive function, a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a lower risk of developing high blood pressure, and a lower risk of experiencing a stroke. Swimming offers a low-impact therapy for individuals with several injuries and conditions. Individuals with chronic heart complications are among the foremost group to benefit from swimming. The heart beats an estimated 17 times less per minute when compared with working out on land, according to a report by the American Council on Exercise. However, the cardiovascular benefits are nearly comparable to activities like cycling and jogging. Swimming is an ideal exercise for those experiencing chronic pain in the knee, ankle, and hip during high-impact exercises, such as running, or due to arthritis.

It is important to consider that the deep-seated mental and physical benefits that come with swimming can be achieved by anyone of any level or skill. For the inexperienced and novice, capitalizing on the health gains of swimming begins by consulting a certified swim instructor at a local community centre or private pool. Taking this first step, although challenging and even frightening, can ultimately mean adopting a major lifestyle change towards good physical health and mental wellness.