Swimming – Best Low-Impact Cardio Exercise

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Swimming – Best Low-Impact Cardio Exercise

The treadmill, elliptical machine or the stationary bike are all good for cardio, but if you want to break the monotony and change things up, you should try swimming for cardio. If you have a pool or a swimming complex nearby, go for a half-hour swim. Swimming is a low-impact cardio activity that works many muscle groups at once, stretching and strengthening your muscles. In the water, try different strokes and kicks. Swimming is not only good for your heart and muscles, it can also relieve sore joints.

Is swimming considered cardio or strength workout?

So what kind of exercise is swimming? Swimming is mainly a cardio activity. Although swimming is easy on the joints, it is not easy on your heart and lungs. It builds your muscles less than other similar activities since the water limits how much your muscle can move, but it is great for people who want a healthy toned body instead of very muscular for aesthetic reasons. It also allows your whole body to exercise including back, arms and legs…and all at the same time!

What are the main benefits of choosing swimming for cardiovascular training?

Like rowing, swimming is a low-impact activity that can help you build and maintain aerobic endurance. Most weight-bearing exercises, such as running, exert high levels of stress on the spine. Swimming has practically no impact on spinal struc­tures, as the water is able to support the body relieving stresses on all joints. Swimming may also strengthen the neck, back and core muscles.

Furthermore, swimming can help you not only develop aerobic capacity but also build muscular endurance in the shoulders, arms, and lower body. That’s due to the fact that the resistance of water is roughly 12 times the resistance of air. Swimming can also help with hip flexibility and strength, which will come in handy for crawling and climbing obstacles. Choosing swimming for cardio is also a great idea for those coming back from an injury and for overweight people who are unable to start running or walking to lose weight.

What muscle groups do swimming develop?

Almost every muscle in your body is used in swimming.  However, the primary muscles used are the gluteals, hamstrings, and quadriceps as a result of kicking through the water. The upper-body muscles used in swimming include the deltoids (shoulder muscles), latissimus dorsi (back muscles), trapezius, and rhomboids (mid-and upper-back muscles), as well as the biceps and triceps. In some strokes (e.g., the butterfly), the rotator muscles are involved, allowing the shoulders and arms to get a complete workout in all three planes of the body. The abdominal and back extensor muscles stabilize the trunk to maintain the efficiency of the stroke.

swimming anatomy

swimming anatomy

How many calories do you burn swimming?

Swimming is a great way to burn calories. It burns calories at a rate of three calories a mile per pound of body weight. If you weight 150 pounds (56 kilograms) and it takes you 30 minutes to swim one mile (1.6 kilometers), then you will be using about 900 calories in one hour. That is a fairly quick pace, but it gives you an idea of how effective swimming is at burning calories. The efficiency of your stroke technique determines how many calories you are burning. The more effi­cient your stroke is, the fewer calories you’ll burn. When you are just learning to swim, you use a substantial amount of energy through the mechanics of the learning process. Once you have gained proficiency, however, your stroke will he more efficient. At that point you can increase your speed. Doing so will increase your calorie expenditure.

A lower heart rate – the effect of temperature

Your heart rates will be significantly slower while swimming than while running or doing any other cardiovascular activity. Don’t be fooled by the lower heart rate response in swimming. Your heart rate is lower in the water because water helps cool the body. Also, the physiological response to working out in a horizontal position in buoyant water decreases the heart rate because the body doesn’t have to fight against gravity. Because of this, you can exercise your body harder but with less fatigue. The lower heart rate during swimming doesn’t mean you are working any less.

Possible risks

Swimming is considered a sport with a low risk of injury. Nevertheless, it carries some risks, including the following:

  • Exposure to chemicals (chlorine in the eyes or chlorine inhalation).
  • Overuse injuries. Competitive butterfly stroke swimmers can develop some back pain and shoulder pain from long bouts of training. Breaststroke swimmers can develop knee pain. Freestyle crawl swimmers may develop swimmer’s shoulder—a form of tendinitis.
  • Diving into a submerged object or the bottom of a pool.
  • Exhaustion or unconsciousness.
  • Drowning, arising from adverse conditions overwhelming the swimmer or causing water inhalation.

Taking the proper precautions can help avoid many, it not all, of the preceding situations.

benefits of swimming

Basic guidelines for swimming

  • Maintain a horizontal position using as little energy as possible to displace the most water to the rear. If your feet are dangling, you are effectively trying to shove a body twice the thickness of yours through the water.
  • Keep your stroke or kick narrow. You want to push the least surface of yourself forward by occupying the smallest amount of space. Think: horizontal body, shallow pull, narrow kick.
  • Keep your elbow high at the start so you can pull with your whole arm and not just your upper arm. Closed fingers are more efficient than wide open fingers, which make a larger surface than closed fingers.
  • Take your time. The best swimmers tend to take fewer strokes. Content rate on maintaining a steady pull without losing your attention and letting the water slip by.
  • Relax. Remember the phrase, If you don’t need it, don’t use it. You don’t need neck muscles to swim, so keep your neck relaxed.
  • Think. Keep your attention in the moment.

Most popular swimming strokes and techniques

There are a number of swimming strokes and techniques. All are effective styles of swimming for cardio, with the freestyle crawl being the most popular.

  • Backstroke. Minimizes spinal stress and is ideal for patients with weak abdominal muscles.
  • Freestyle. May increase neck and back pain, especially during breathing.
  • Breaststroke. A favored stroke for patients with spine problems.

Swimming for cardio – closing thoughts

There is no question, swimming is great exercise. Choose swimming for cardio training. It is a lifetime sport that benefits the body and the whole person. In addition to increasing your cardiovascular endurance, you also gain muscular strength as you pull your body through the resistance of the water. This resistance allows you to build strength in your limbs and core with every stroke. Swimming offers a non-impact way to burn a relatively high number of calories in a short amount of time.

About Author

Hey! My name is Kruno, and I'm the owner and author of Bodybuilding Wizard. I started this website back in late 2014, and it has been my pet project ever since. My goal is to help you learn proper weight training and nutrition principles so that you can get strong and build the physique of your dreams!

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