Swimming is perhaps the best exercise to get a person into shape.  From a scientific perspective, swimming has been found to be the ideal physical fitness activity.  It targets many of the body’s muscles and helps strengthen and develop one’s body.  In fact, most researchers agree that swimming is the only activity that works on the entire body by improving a person’s cardiovascular conditioning, increasing a person’s muscle strength, improving one’s endurance, fixing one’s posture and making one more flexible all at the same time.  These benefits that one can gain from swimming are unmatched by any sport as only swimming offers all of these benefits.  This short report shall discuss a few of the more specific reasons why swimming is the ideal physical fitness activity.

The first reason, as already mentioned, is that swimming gives one a complete body workout.  It benefits the cardiovascular system without straining one’s heart and improves a person’s use of oxygen.  The timed breathing required in swimming conditions the body and allows a person to improve not only his endurance but also a person’s lung capacity.

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Swimming is also a perfect complement for cross-training workouts.  As a person who swims becomes more fit, the resting heart rate and respiratory rate is reduced thus allowing for more blood to flow into the heart and making the lungs more efficient.  Since swimming gives a complete body workout, it also allows one to burn calories faster than in any other sport.  A runner, on average, burns as many calories on a six mile run in one hour as a swimmer who was been swimming for one hour has burned.  Swimming not only develops one’s body but also helps people lose weight fast.

Another reason why swimming is considered as an ideal exercise arises from the fact that when a person swims the impact on the joints and bones is significantly reduced by the buoyancy of the water.  The weight bearing environment of swimming therefore provides little stress to the body’s connective tissue and joints.  This means that the body is not only strengthened but also protected from the wear and tear on the bones and joints.  Since a person weighs nearly 1/10th of his or her body weight in water, there is less gravitational stress on the body.  This greatly reduces the incidence of injuries and allows for a relatively rigorous and injury free work out.

Swimming allows the body to burn calories at a rate of about three (3) calories a mile per pound of bodyweight.  Therefore, if a person weights approximately 150 (lbs) pounds and it take that person thirty (30) minutes to swim one (1) mile, which is about 1,760 yards or 1,600 meters, then that person will be burning almost 900 calories in one (1) hour.  It is important to remember of course that these estimates may vary for different swimmers depending on skill and actual degree of physical conditioning.

One of the most difficult things that a person encounters when getting into shape is the boredom from the routine.  Swimming is not only great exercise but it is also an entertaining activity.  It is fun for not only individuals but for groups as well and makes it easier for people who want to get in shape keep up their routine without getting bored.

From a psychological perspective, swimming allows people to relax and swim with very little effort.  When a swimmer gets into the rhythm of swimming and allows the mind to focus on the stroke, it is similar to a form of meditation that provides the body with an overall feeling of general well being.  Studies have shown that people who swim in the mornings or begin their days by swimming are more likely to have more energy for the rest of the day and are less likely to feel stressed or pressured.

Swimming does not only give a person the psychological feeling of well being but also helps in other aspects such as the development of certain life skills namely sportsmanship, time-management, self-discipline, goal-setting, and an increased sense of self-worth through their participation in the sport.

Swimming is not only good as a main form of exercise but is perfect for supplementing other physical activities as well.  It is also a great warm up for muscles before beginning with any rigorous or strenuous work outs.  The cool water helps the body adjust and warm up but still keeps the muscles loose and stress free.  It improves the blood circulation and breathing and is perfect as a preparatory work out.  As a cool-down exercise, swimming a few laps in the pool can move blood throughout the body.  This is critical because it allows the muscles to relax and to recover much faster than any type of land based exercises or cool-down routine.

It is important to remember, however, that before taking up swimming as an exercise people should always consult their doctors or physical therapists to determine the pace and regularity of the exercise.  Those who are recovering from an injury or are afflicted with asthma should find out first if they can take up swimming as an exercise.  The normal pace should be around 12-20 minutes of swimming just to set the pace.  This may be increased once the skill level and endurance increases.

The best stroke to use is the freestyle stroke because it allows the body to move freely and allows for better timing with breathing.  More advanced swimmers can also mix up their routines by incorporating other strokes such as the backstroke or the butterfly stroke.  By mixing up routines, one is able to have a more effective work out every single time.

Swimming is not simply the perfect exercise but it is also a wonderful lifestyle.  It reduces stress and helps one become more physically fit.  The added benefits such as social interaction and mental discipline are also what help make swimming the great physical activity that it is.