Stroke of genius

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Make swimming your go-to workout and soak up the benefits!

It’s fun pounding away the calories on the treadmill, honing your strength with weights and sweating yourself slim at a spin class, but these get-fit methods only offer a fraction of the benefits of a swimming workout.

Trade in your usual workout for time in the pool at least once a week and you’ll get more bang for your buck: swimming improves stamina, strength and endurance, and whips your body into shape, giving you a flatter belly and leaner legs. Here’s why a water workout is the way forward.

Improves heart health

Swimming is the ultimate aerobic workout. The increased demand for oxygen means your muscles have to work harder as they work against the resistance of water. ‘It’s an ideal workout for your heart and circulation, as you are using every part of your body to swim; therefore your heart is working harder than usual to circulate blood to your arms and legs,’ says Caroline Swatton, founder of Swalings School of Swimming (swalings.com).

Boosts your mood

Want to get an instant endorphin kick? Jump into a swimming pool. You don’t need to be a pro swimmer to reap the rewards; even a few laps will get the feel-good chemicals flying around your body. ‘A recreational swim leaves you feeling positive and it really burns those calories,’ says Caroline. Studies show that those that swim regularly also have substantially more energy than those who do other types of exercise. ‘They also experience less tension, depression and anger after a session in the pool, making them happier people,’ she adds.

Burns fat

An hour of swimming burns hundreds of calories while helping to build lean muscle mass and keeping your metabolism revved up. ‘Water is nearly 1,000 times denser than air, so swimming through it is like using a resisted weight machine in the gym – but safer and with less restricted biomechanical movement,’ explains Lorcan Loughrey, swimming coach at Reebok Sports Club.

Increases flexibility

Our joints are prone to wear and tear as we get older, but regular swimming sessions help to keep you strong and supple. Don’t get us wrong, we love running and gym classes, but these can be tough on your body. Swimming is a joint-friendly form of exercise, thanks to water’s weightlessness effect. ‘One of the underlying benefits of swimming is the flexibility gained from participating in the activity. It’s like climbing a wall – the higher you reach, the further you will go,’ says Lorcan.

Adds variety 

If you’re stuck in a workout rut and bored of doing the same workout session over and over, swimming can offer a refreshing change – it’s far more than just laps in the pool. ‘Being a strong swimmer opens up so many fun opportunities, especially now that summer is here. You could try waterskiing, body boarding, turtle spotting or snorkelling – the list goes on,’ says Lorcan.

Trims and tones 

You don’t have to be an Olympian to sculpt the perfect figure. Swimming gets your blood circulating so your muscles receive more oxygen, which in turn promotes muscle growth for a trimmer body. ‘Each stroke works specific muscle groups – for example, in front crawl and back crawl the underwater pull and push action of the arms will work your biceps, triceps and deltoids,’ says Amanda Mcilvaney, Virgin Active’s senior swim manager for Scotland and the North (virginactive.co.uk). ‘With all strokes, to maintain a streamlined position in the water you have to engage the core muscles, and your quads and hamstrings will be working to maintain the leg action.’