There are a number of physiological benefits of swimming. Two examples are improvements in muscular function and strength and importantly for heart health, an improvement in the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen. Swimming daily improves your body’s ability to transport and use oxygen, which results in regular daily activities being able to be performed with less fatigue. This is particularly important for people with cardiovascular disease, whose ability to exercise is generally lower than that of healthy individuals. Swimming also improves the capacity of the blood vessels to dilate in response to exercise. This means better vascular wall function and an improved ability to provide oxygen to the muscles during exercise. In a recent study by the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) swimming has been found to be especially effective when it comes to promoting improvements in the cardiovascular system. In fact, swimming on a regular basis can improve heart contractility, decrease blood pressure, lower heart rate and improve lung efficiency.
Improvement in Heart Contractility
Heart contractility is basically just the ability of the cardiac muscle to squeeze and relax, which pumps blood and oxygen from the heart to other parts of the body. As this function improves, it results in an increase in blood and oxygen supply, making it easier to perform everyday tasks. The American Council on Exercise reports that swimming is highly beneficial in improving heart contractility. As swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise, people who experience problems with their joints can enjoy higher-intensity water-based forms of exercise because of the buoyancy and may be able to promote greater improvements in contractility.
Decreased Blood Pressure
When the body is in an upright position, such as during walking, hiking or biking, the heart works hard to pump blood and oxygen to and from the lower extremities like legs and feet. This increased demand on the heart can lead to a spike in blood pressure, which can be an issue for people with existing high blood pressure. The American College of Sports Medicine has found that swimming is an effective exercise, in that it works the cardiovascular system without causing the major spike in blood pressure. Since the body is in a horizontal position during swimming, the heart does not have to work as hard, and the blood pressure remains more constant. Swimming for half an hour a minimum of three times a week can significantly lower blood pressure levels. Adults who don’t do any physical exercise are three times more likely to suffer from high blood pressure. Studies have also shown that aerobic exercise like swimming can also keep the layer of cells lining your arteries flexible and in good shape.
Lowered Heart Rate
As with other forms of aerobic exercise, swimming can be an excellent way to lower the resting heart rate. A low resting heart rate means less work on the cardiac muscle, which can be helpful in the prevention of certain types of heart disease. Swimming not only results in lowered resting heart rates, but may also actually lead to drops in heart rate during exercise. The American Council on Exercise says that these drops in activity-related heart rate can allow the body to perform even greater levels of work, with less stress on the cardiac muscle.
Increased Lung Efficiency
The lungs can also benefit from participating from regular swimming. Swimming helps to increase both the size and efficiency of the diaphragm which leads to improvements in respiration. Swimming has been found to lead to increases in the number of capillaries, which are crucial in the supply of oxygen to the bloodstream. When combined, all of these improvements mean an improvement in oxygen uptake, distribution and utilization by the body.