Posted in Women's Health

FIVE BENEFITS OF REGULAR SWIMMING by Norma Walton

Norma Walton and children jumping in the lake
Jumping into Georgian Bay

Other than playing shinny on a frozen pond, what is more Canadian than jumping in the lake for a summer swim?  When it is warm, Canadians flock to the lakes and beaches to play in the sand and the water.  Most Canadian children have happy memories of canoeing, paddle boarding, building sandcastles, swimming, and hanging out on the dock.   The lake water provides energy and makes Canadians feel buoyant and alive.  One of the first things most Canadian children learn to do is swim so they can fully and safely enjoy and embrace the abundance of lakes and rivers in Ontario.

As you grow older, if you want to swim year-round, you will need access to an indoor pool.  I have many fond memories of swimming as a kid, and I trained as a lifeguard in my teens so have always been happy and comfortable in the water.  Just in the last five years, though, have I begun to swim laps regularly…and I have never felt better.

There are five specific benefits to be derived from a daily swim.

  1. Your Fitness Level Will Improve.

Swimming manages to satisfy the trifecta of exercise objectives:  it increases your flexibility, improves your endurance, and makes you stronger.  It is also ideal for any age since it is low impact and easy on the joints.  Swimming regularly makes your arms far more defined and much stronger.  Your legs will become toned and your belly will be tighter.  Swimming elongates and stretches you so that you stand taller and feel sleeker when you are finished in the pool.  Your body will look and feel leaner than before.  My personal objective when I do laps is to ensure I am breathing heavily and panting when done.  Others take it slower and less taxing.  Still others love aquacise and how it makes their bodies feel.  Any activity in the pool will increase your fitness level.

Norma Walton shows a lap pool for enjoying swimming
Indoor lap pool – Kissing Tree

2. The Pool Will Become Your Sanctuary:

Your phone cannot come with you into the pool.  Your children typically cannot come with you into the pool…same with your spouse.  There is a blissful sanctuary about being in the water by yourself.  The water surrounds you and you float.  You can collect your thoughts and enjoy the stillness and the silence that comes from being submerged.  Your mind can rest and relax.  Sometimes I ponder problems when I am swimming.  Other times I shut off my mind and just enjoy the physical sensations of swimming.  Still others I remember books I have read or movies I have seen and re-live them in my mind.  It is a wonderful time for me and such a nice break from all the distractions that are everywhere during our waking hours.

3. You Will Feel Better About Yourself:

Being in the pool every day always makes you feel better.  Once you are done your workout, the endorphins are coursing through your system giving you that exercise high.  Your body will smell of chlorine or salt which swimmers typically grow to love.  If you are a member of a club, you can enjoy a steam room or whirlpool after your swim along with a shower and spa experience with body cream, face cream, and all manner of pampering products.  Taking time for yourself will improve your self confidence and self esteem.  I always feel great coming out of the club because I have exercised, my endorphins are flowing, I have cream all over my body, my lungs feel good from a steam, and I am happy.  I feel healthy.  It is a great feeling.

4. You Will Be More Optimistic:

The luxury of swimming every day makes you feel lucky.  When you embrace the experience, you cannot help but leave the pool happier than when you entered.  Your body will feel fluid and strong, and your mind will be recharged from the silence and embrace of the water.  The social aspect of swimming will also uplift your spirits.  Inevitably when you leave the pool you are happier and more optimistic than when you arrived.  That sense of optimism bucks you up throughout the day and permits you to be more positive and encouraging.  Swimming is a wonderful lift for anyone who is frustrated or stressed or depressed.  The pool is a place for shedding all your anxiety and allowing the total immersion of your body and the restoration of your mind to become a balm to your spirit.

Norma Walton and children at the grotto in Georgian Bay
The Grotto, Georgian Bay

5. You Will Expand Your Social Circle:

Swimmers are creatures of habit.  They typically swim at the same time each day.  They wear the same suits.  They use the same goggles and swim caps.  They do the same routine.  They follow the same pattern each time.  They track time and laps.  That means that once you become a swimmer, you will identify with other swimmers and will enjoy getting to know them and relating to them each day that you see them.  Swimmers can be any age, but regular swimmers are generally in their 40s and above.  They are often people who may have done power sports in their younger days and have turned to swimming now because of injury.  There is a connection you will find with other swimmers that will forge relationships and permit you to make friends and acquaintances with your peers and elders.  Those relationships will encourage you to view the pool as a social outing in addition to a place for health and exercise.

There are many places to swim in cities and towns.  Usually the local YMCA permits swimming as do local community centers.  Many fitness clubs have pools and they are often the least used amenity so you will sometimes have the entire Olympic sized pool to yourself.  Whether salt water or chlorine or some combination thereof, the water is clean and clear. 

I love to do a mile worth of laps.  I like variety so I start with 40 meters of breaststroke followed by 40 meters of front crawl, then 40 meters of back stroke followed by 40 meters of back crawl.  I then do side stroke and end with butterfly, 40 meters each.  This takes me about six to seven minutes per cycle.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  I swim a mile – 1609 meters – in about 46 minutes.  Other swimmers do different things.  No matter what strokes you prefer, swimming will uplift you.

You may choose to swim to improve your fitness level; you may swim for sanctuary, peace of mind and quiet contemplation.  Perhaps you seek to feel better about yourself and improve your self perception, or maybe you want to encourage a more positive outlook on life.  Alternatively maybe you want to meet some like-minded people.  Whatever your reason, swimming is so beneficial to our bodies, minds and spirits that you may want to give it a try.