Is swimming the best exercise?

I’m the sort of person who sucks at sports, Basketball is too fast for me, Soccer too violent and Cricket is such a drag! Luckily enough I had been a scrawny kid back in school and while I didn’t put on weight easily, I wasn’t skinny either. I tried my hand at running among many things and I hated them to the core. Being a cleanliness freak, the sight of bruised knees and soiled clothes was disappointing. It was after 10th grade when I quickly started accumulating fat under my skin, I realized it was time to do something about it or very soon I’d be obese.

I took up swimming and instantly fell in love with it. It sure was quite an uphill task and not without drinking a substantial amount of water did I manage to learn swimming. It’s often said swimming is the best exercise you can do. It works your whole body, yet it’s gentle on joints, reducing the risk of injury. And you don’t need to worry about the smell of hot sweaty armpits or soiled clothes afterwards.

Swimming remains one of the best exercise because it’s cardiovascular and strengthening at the same time and not many exercises can do that. However, while it is great for fitness and muscle tone, it’s arguably not the best exercise if your aim for weight loss. Research done on swimming showed that weight loss seemed more difficult. The theory is that the water submersion initiates a complex to lower metabolic rate and with a lower metabolic rate, the body uses fewer calories to maintain normal function. Fewer calories burnt is equivalent to lesser weight loss. From the perspective of weight loss, swimming has some negative points compared to other forms of exercise.

One of the major problems is buoyancy. When you’re in the pool, your weight is supported by water, so you use lesser energy than you would on land and that makes moving on water quite easier. And the more body fat you have, the more it applies because more fat leads to more surface area, also fat floats. So someone with more body fat will actually burn fewer kilo-joules swimming than someone who is slimmer. Likewise, a woman’s higher proportion of body fat means she will burn fewer kilo-joules than a man swimming under the same conditions.

Some scientists suggest that temperature is another possible issue. Regardless of your size or gender, it’s usually easier to maintain your normal body temperature during and after a swim, compared to exercising on land. This in turn means that you have to burn comparatively less fuel, because you don’t have to work hard to maintain your body temperature and keep yourself cool.

Another major reason is that swimming usually increases the appetite unlike other exercises which suppress appetite. All this doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight swimming, just that it will be more difficult to do so than with most other land-based exercise. But all of this does not mean that you give up on swimming. It still tones your muscles and gives you broad shoulders, leading to great shape of body. Also, it is one of the most fun exercises while having a very low risk of injuries. Most important of all, it is a great skill which might help you in life threatening situations.

Also there are various techniques to increase the calorie burnout while swimming. The body gets accustomed and familiar to the exercise pattern over time and gradually it becomes easier to do the same routine than before. Surprise your body, change your routine workout frequently. There are four strokes in swimming, learn all of them and then use them alternatively, not allowing your body to grow familiar with one pattern.

For weight loss, many coaches suggest interval training in which you push yourself hard for short spurts, and then drop back to a less-intense level of exercise. The idea behind it is again to not let body grow accustomed. Also you can not keep pushing hard throughout the period of exercise and these short spurts help you use more energy.

Other methods to boost the kilojoules you burn in the pool is by using the larger muscles in your legs intensely when you swim as well as your arms or setting personal challenges, such as reducing your time to complete a set number of laps. Getting the technique right is very important because it helps you go faster and longer, also the more fat you lose, the lesser buoyancy you have leading to more weight loss when you swim next.

The aim should be to have a healthy and muscular body because while it makes you look good, it is also important for your mental well being because “a healthy mind resides in a healthy body.”

Abhyuday Gupta

Dreamer. Achiever.

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