HEALTH February 2016

The benefits of swimming

I’m sure that most of you have heard that swimming is the most complete sport. But have you wondered why? Well, there are many reasons. Let’s start with the physical benefits. It is a low impact exercise. Many people with arthritis and joint problems find it difficult to exercise in land, but the buoyancy of the water reduces the impact to nearly zero. In fact, athletes that are injured are told to do work-outs at the pool to stay in shape.

Another benefit is that you can continue to do this sport well into old age. This is very important, and goes beyond staying in shape. During old age, many people find it difficult to keep doing their favorite sport when they were young (e.g. basketball, soccer), but it is precisely at this age that staying physically active is imperative. In addition, at an aqua-aerobics class you meet people and form part of a social group which contributes to your overall well-being and helps combat the loneliness of old age.

You might have already known that swimming is one the sports that burns the highest number of calories per hour. It is estimated that around 500 depending on the velocity or style. Many people these days are trying to lose weight, so swimming is a great way to achieve this. You will also build muscle tone.

It also builds cardio respiratory capacity and endurance. With any exercise, but swimming in particular, blood flow increases and your lungs expand completely. This is very important, because when you’re sedentary- like I am right now while writing this article- blood is not flowing appropriately and your lungs are not oxygenated fully. In the pool, just by being submerged, the pressure of the water squeezes your veins, bringing that blood back up to the heart so that it can be distributed throughout the body. Then, when you start swimming, blood flows with greater ease, your heart beats faster and your oxygenation increases. This whole cycle is what explains why you feel so relaxed and refreshed after a workout.

In these stressful times, we are all looking for a way to blow off steam, and for me swimming is like a form of meditation. Synchronizing the breathing with the strokes, the sound of the water flowing through your eyes, the feeling of floating- all these properties unique to water create a sort of relaxation that I think is unique in sports. As we can see, swimming, besides all it’s physical benefits also contributes to your overall well-being.

So if you’re looking for a very healthy, low impact, high-calorie burning and zen-like workout, or even just something that complements your gym routine, give swimming a chance.

You can find more information at or ask your local county office about the municipal pool, or your local YMCA which will have swimming lessons for every level.

André Renaldo Fernández  — I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, very close to the beach which maybe explains my love for the water. I’m currently a second year medical student at the University of Rochester. Apart from my academic duties, I make sure to go swimming frequently. I also enjoy working with the Latino community here in Rochester, and I’m co-president of the Latino Medical Student Association.

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