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Does Swimming Help You Live Longer?

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There’s nothing quite as invigorating as hitting the water for a brisk swim.

Whether you prefer to dip into the pool or plunge into the ocean, you tap into a flood of benefits when you swim.

Swimming is a lifesaver in the literal sense, keeping you from drowning when you’re in the water.

But how does the recreational activity impact you when you’re out of the water?

Like any exercise, swimming comes with risks and rewards, affecting everything from your mood to your monthly life insurance premiums.

Intrigued yet?

Let’s dive into all that swimming has to offer.

The People Who Swim

person swimming to improve healthBefore we get too deep into the benefits of swimming, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Swimming is popular around the globe, with a significant amount of the US population swimming on a regular basis.

According to data from the CDC, around 91 million adults go swimming in rivers, lakes, or oceans on an annual basis.

They also report swimming is number four on the list of the nation’s most popular recreational activities, based on the US Census Bureau.

That ranking increases among younger swimmers, being the number one most popular activity for individuals between the ages of 7 and 17.

Children may swim the most, but flocks of Americans in other age groups are swimming as well. Statista reports 23% of 18 to 49 year-olds went swimming in 2018, as did 18% of 50 to 64 year-olds.

Benefits of Swimming

There’s a reason so many Americans swim on a regular basis. The recreational activity is a lifesaver in far more ways than one.

While some of the benefits of swimming listed below are obvious, others may surprise you.

Improves Musculoskeletal Health

Swimming can have a positive effect on multiple systems of the body, but especially your musculoskeletal system.

Think about it: With every stroke, you’re working your biceps, triceps, deltoids, pectorals, and even your wrist flexor muscles.

And that’s only your arms. Swimming also engages your core, your calves, your quads, your glutes, and your hamstrings.

Swimming is the epitome of a full-body workout.

Consequently, swimming can improve both your flexibility and posture over time.

It’s also far less likely to lead to back injuries than other popular exercises and sports. David Tanner, an Indiana University researcher who studies swimming explains,

“There’s no hard impact on your back like there is with running, and instead of being bent forward like you would be on a bike, your back tends to be arched slightly in the opposite direction.”

Beneficial to Bones and Joints

While other sports like running can do some damage to your joints, swimming is not a weight-bearing activity.

Rather than holding your own weight as you would with other activities, the water supports your body when you swim.

In addition to preventing bone and joint deterioration to begin with, swimming is the perfect exercise solution for individuals who suffer from arthritis and other debilitating conditions.

A recent Journal of Rheumatology study found that introducing swimming into the routines of osteoarthritis sufferers lessened their joint pain and stiffness.

The study also suggests the benefits of swimming for individuals with arthritis are comparable to those of cycling.

Accessible with Various Medical Conditions

Swimming is one of the most widely accessible activities on the planet. Individuals with arthritis aren’ t the only ones who can benefit from the sport, either.

If you have one of the following conditions, swimming could be just what the doctor prescribed.

  • Pregnancy: While some forms of exercise can pose an increased risk to pregnant women, swimming typically isn’t one of them. In fact, according to an Epidemiology study, swimming, as opposed to not exercising, can reduce the risk of premature birth.
  • MS: The National MS Society recommends swimming for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis as it requires less energy exertion, improves muscle strength and coordination, provides buoyancy, and reduces the risk of damaging falls.
  • Asthma: Everything from the humidity of indoor pools to the breathing patterns of swimming can benefit asthmatic swimmers, increasing their lung capacity. Fun fact: Research shows asthma is actually quite common in competitive swimmers, even at the Olympic-level.
  • Injuries: Athletes who have been injured often turn to swimming to stay fit, as it allows them to isolate different parts of their body while resting others. It is also an ideal exercise for the injured because it is non-weight-bearing.

Positively Affects Mental Health

Swimming presents a whole host of benefits for your mental health, too.

For instance, avid swimmers across the board report sleeping more soundly and routinely thanks to their favorite hobby.

Participants also benefit from the hormonal aspects of swimming. When you swim, your body releases happiness-inducing endorphins.

Regular exercise can combat depression and anxiety and relieve the stresses of everyday life.

A Lancet Psychiatry study asked 1.2 million participants to report their good days and bad days over a significant span of time.

As you might guess, the participants who exercised frequently had far fewer bad mental health days.

If you’re having a downer of a day, dropping by the pool for a quick swim just might lift your spirits.

Research from the Australasian Journal on Ageing suggests aquatic exercise can also improve the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia sufferers and enhance their psychological well-being.

Boosts Cardiovascular Health

One of the most amazing benefits of swimming is its impact on your heart. Swimming gets your heart pumping quickly and your blood flowing strongly.

Studies show swimming and similar activities prevent the heart from stiffening.

In addition to boosting your heart’s performance, regular exercise can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.

A BioMed Research International study which put women through high-intensity swim training and monitored factors like their heart rate and blood pressure found,

Both short-term intermittent high-intensity and prolonged moderate-intensity swim training reduced systolic blood pressure and improved both water and land-based exercise capacities.”

Whichever pace you choose, you can improve your heart health, and your day-to-day life, by swimming.

Results in Weight Loss

Next time the Summer Olympics roll around, take a look at the swimmers. You’ll notice they’re all in phenomenal shape.

While your physique might not rival Michael Phelps’ after a day in the pool, consistent exercise and dieting lead to weight loss.

There’s even more good news when it comes to swimming and weight loss. Swimming is one of the most efficient calorie-burning exercises.

In some cases, you can burn more calories in the pool in less time than you could doing more strenuous land-based exercises.

Additionally, swimming is an ideal solution for overweight individuals who might struggle with weight-bearing activities like running or playing sports.

Running might also appeal to overweight participants because it reduces the odds of sweating and overheating.

Combats Cancer

In a time in which cancer is being diagnosed left and right, millions of people turn to exercise to avoid the ravaging effects of the disease.

Are their efforts wasted? According to Christine M. Friedenrich and Marla R. Orenstein’s research, no.

In an exhaustive research effort that looked at 170 studies about exercise and cancer, they found that exercise balances hormone levels and leads to weight loss.

While not every type of cancer can be avoided with physical activity, the study showed strong support that it lessens your likelihood of getting breast cancer and colon cancer.

Leads to Longer Lifespan

In its 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines, the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion analyzed several studies on the health effects of exercising regularly, categorizing their findings as having moderate evidence, moderate to strong evidence, and strong evidence.

What results of exercises, might you ask, had the strongest evidence?

The lineup included the following positive effects, and more:

All of these factors go hand-in-hand in hand with the most compelling impact of the studies: a decreased risk of early death.

Bottom line: Just like swimming keeps you alive in the moment when you jump into the deep end of a pool, it could keep you alive for years when you engage in swimming on a regular basis.

Swimming and Risk

What’s not to love about swimming? You can lower your risk of deadly diseases, improve your mental well-being, and strengthen your body.

Do the advantages of swimming end with your health and happiness, though?

Is it possible that your health-conscious extra-curricular activity could benefit your finances?

While swimming may not have an effect on your mortgage or your car insurance rates, it could play a part in your access to life insurance.

Why?

Because the type and level of life insurance coverage (and rates) you’re eligible for are determined by how much of a risk you are to providers.

Their main considerations are concerned with your health. Although swimming is highly rewarding, it isn’t without risk.

Risks of Swimming

  • Outdoor swimming: One of the most cited dangers of swimming is related to the water itself. Some natural bodies of water could contain pathogens or pollutants which lead to illness. Educating yourself on the areas in which you swim, being alert to warnings, and avoiding dangerous water conditions is key.
  • Swimming pools: Others, like public pools, could contain bacteria and infections from other swimmers. Fortunately, chlorine kills the majority of these agents, and the risk of contracting a serious illness is minimal.
  • Drowning: While the risk of drowning is valid, it can often be avoided with common sense and caution. Becoming a strong swimmer, staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol while swimming, and swimming with a buddy are all surefire ways to protect yourself and enjoy the benefits of swimming safely.

Risk Factors Underwriters Consider

The risk factors associated with swimming mentioned above will not negatively impact your life insurance.

In fact, swimming could help you out, as underwriters will use the following factors to determine your rates:

  • Weight: Swimming helps you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight thereafter, which plays a major role in underwriting your life insurance.
  • Cardiovascular health: A healthy heart is another key to the best life insurance risk categories, a factor that swimming improves drastically.
  • Blood pressure: Hypertension usually means higher life insurance premiums. You can lower your blood pressure when you swim on the regular.
  • Cholesterol: LDL, bad cholesterol, could drop when you hit the pool, and HDL, good cholesterol could increase, putting you in a better rate class with insurers.

Running gives you a major advantage in the areas above, but traditional underwriters will look at a few other factors, which can’t be improved with swimming.

These factors include your age and gender, your family’s health history, illnesses outside of the ones above, and any medication you take regularly.

Outside of your health, they’ll also assess your hobbies and job. Swimming isn’t particularly threatening, but other water sports like boat racing are.

How Swimmers Can Save Money on Life Insurance

Swimming can do more for your life insurance rates than simply lower the risk factors above.

If you’re an avid swimmer, you may be rewarded for your conscientiousness, thanks to Health IQ.

Health IQ was built on a desire to reward physically active people for their efforts.

You simply provide a few details about yourself, take a quick Health IQ and Swim IQ literacy test, and send in verification of your healthy lifestyle, then you’re on your way to better rates.

The company will help to qualify you for lower life insurance rates with top providers across the country.

They use your healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of being penalized for factors like family health history, high BMI, and high blood pressure.

Final Thoughts

When you put time and effort into improving your health, the results are awe-inspiring.

Swimming could be the perfect physical activity for you, no matter your age, condition, or current physical shape.

This activity is unrivaled in its accessibility and benefits for individuals with debilitating health issues.

Regardless of if you’re a competitive swimmer or a mother looking for a fun after-school exercise for the whole family, you can improve your health, stamina, and outlook by hitting the pool.

If you are a serious swimmer, the potential savings on life insurance are just a bonus for pursuing your passion.

Author:

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Parker King

Parker King is a researcher and editorial writer with a Masters in Professional Communication from Clemson University. She has years of experience in the nonprofit sector and writing in the world of personal finance, insurance, and other topics.

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