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8 Reasons Swimming is Great for Metabolic Health

Written by
Yumna Farooq
Team Nutrisense
Reviewed by
Heather Davis
MS, RDN, LDN

Summer is coming to an end, which means that some people may think that the pool season is over. But did you know that swimming is more than just a fun way to cool off?

Whether you’re jumping in your backyard pool during the summer or heading to the gym to swim some laps, swimming is a great way to add some low-impact exercise to your routine. This activity even has a host of health benefits from improving mental health to improving glycemic control.

In this post, we’ll dive into what makes swimming so great and how you can reap the benefits. Read on to learn the eight ways that swimming boosts your overall health, so you can keep them in mind the next time you hit the pool.

Health Benefits of Swimming

a man swimming in a lake

Getting plenty of regular exercise or physical activity has a number of health benefits. From supporting healthy blood sugar levels to helping boost your mood, there are lots of reasons to get your body moving.

Swimming is a bit different from other types of cardio exercises in that it's done in the water. However, just like running or cycling, swimming laps in the pool can get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular health. It is also a great way to increase your endurance.

Swimming also requires your body to use distinct breathing patterns, which may even improve pulmonary health. In the pool, your body uses a whole different set of skills to push back against the resistance of the water and hold your breath for longer periods of time.

Let’s explore eight of the unique health benefits that swimmers may experience from this sport.

1) Burns Calories

Swimming can be a great activity for anyone working towards a weight loss goal. Like with any exercise, swimming can help you burn calories, especially if you get your heart rate up during your swim.

When it comes to weight loss, calories do matter to some extent. However, other factors such as nutrient composition, hormones, and any health conditions you may have can still come into play and influence weight gain.

Swimming requires your body biomechanics to work in unique patterns to move through the resistance of the water. This also helps to build and strengthen skeletal muscle.

One study investigated movement patterns of swimmers during a six week training program with Polish swimmers. The authors found that the swimmers had significantly stronger core muscles compared to the start of the training.

All in all, whether your goal is to get stronger, meet your weight loss goals, or even prevent or manage obesity, swimming regularly can be a great place to start.

2) Can Improve Metabolic Syndrome

a woman swimming laps in the pool

Metabolic syndrome is condition that is characterized by a group of suboptimal health markers such as:

  • High blood pressure 
  • Increased adipose tissue or fat especially in the abdomen 
  • High cholesterol with low HDL and high LDL 
  • High triglycerides 

Individuals with metabolic syndrome may also have hypertension or type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity, such as swimming, has been shown to improve metabolic syndrome. One study that investigated the health benefits of swimming found that individuals who had markers of metabolic syndrome significantly improved these markers by engaging in swimming.

The authors of that study found these individuals had better HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides levels as well as reduced body fat. If you are someone who is affected by any of these health conditions, swimming may be one activity you can try adding to your daily routine to improve metabolic health.

3) Lower Inflammation 

Chronic inflammation can lead to consistently elevated levels of blood glucose or blood sugar. Over time, high glucose levels in the blood can cause a number of adverse health effects such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.A 2019 study looked at how swimming can help reduce this type of inflammation. In this study, researchers observed individuals who had elevated levels of inflammatory markers, such as IL-6, engage in swimming over an extended period of time.

The results indicated that those with chronic inflammation could significantly lower the inflammatory molecules through swimming. And the more intense the swimming exercise was, the greater the benefit to the person’s health.This study also suggested that swimming may help reduce inflammation in certain health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), where the body has trouble regulating the immune system.

Another study investigated the benefits of swimming in people with RA as well as other chronic, inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia. Scientists found that people with these conditions reported reduced pain and less fatigue. The individuals who participated also found their mental health improved and that they felt more energized.

4) Increases Insulin Sensitivity

a girl resting after swimming laps in the pool

Insulin resistance can lead to hyperglycemia, or elevated levels of glucose in the blood. In the same study on swimmers mentioned above, the authors found that swimming had a beneficial effect in people with insulin resistance.The group that swam during the study found that their insulin resistance had improved during the three month study. Another study found that 15 weeks of intense swimming can actually help prevent type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity.

5) Boosts Cognitive Health 

In addition to improving physical health, swimming may also boost your cognitive health. In general, aerobic exercise (such as swimming) can improve cognitive functions like memory and attention in adults.

Some research shows that moderate to high-intensity physical activity is what leads to improved cognitive health. Another study found that moderate intensity swimming significantly improved mild cognitive impairment in the elderly.

6) Minimal Adverse Effects on Joints and Organs Like The Heart

a girl stretching before diving into the pool

Some types of exercise are not ideal for a certain population or group of people. For example, anything that involves a lot of jumping or running is not ideal for those with osteoporosis or arthritis.

Similarly, sports like football have a high risk of falls or concussions. These activities can especially be harmful for those who are elderly or anyone who has had multiple concussions.

Swimming, on the other hand, is a versatile type of cardiovascular activity that can be practiced by almost anyone. Swimming laps in the pool is a low-impact activity and has minimal adverse effects on your joints, and your organs.

Unlike high impact exercise, swimming is much less likely to damage or put stress on your joints or your bones. Even if your preferred activity is running or biking, swimming can be a great way to cross train in the case of injury as it puts very little impact on the bones.

7) Improves Cardiovascular Health

We already touched upon the fact that swimming has minimal adverse effects on joints and bone health. But research has shown that swimming can also improve cardiovascular health.

One study found that swimming reduces your risk of mortality, death from a disease, and morbidity in those who have cardiac disease.Swimming can have these positive effects in a variety of ways. Physical activity causes you to adapt to different breathing patterns, which are better for your heart health.These breathing patterns improve oxygen intake and reduce blood pressure.

These benefits may be especially beneficial for those who have hypertension or are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Swimming training can also help reduce your resting heart rate.

8) Improves Physical Composition

a man with defined muscles walking up to the ocean

In addition to its other health benefits, regular swimming can not only help you build and develop muscle strength, but it can also improve body composition. Body composition may be more accurate than the body mass index or body weight when it comes to improving metabolic health.

One study found that swimming improved body composition by boosting fat loss. The authors of this study had a group of middle aged women engage in an hour of swimming, three times a week for a total of 12 weeks.At the end of twelve weeks, they found that these women had significantly lowered the amount of body fat compared to those in the control group who did not do the swimming program. Researchers observed that the female swimmers who improved their body composition during the study also experienced improved metabolic health.

The group of swimmers significantly improved total cholesterol and total triglyceride levels with improved levels of high-density lipids, or HDL. As if those benefits weren’t astounding on their own, the authors found that the swimmers experienced improved cardiovascular health.

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense 

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

Related Article

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

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