Why swimming is the best cardio exercise

Hitting the pool is the best bang for your buck

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Collegian File Photo

By Arnav Mehra, Collegian Columnist

I’ve always been a big fan of the water. At six months old, I took the first plunge into the pool and have been in love with swimming ever since. Whether it was participating on the swim team, swimming in the ocean or enjoying a few recreational laps, the activity has always been near and dear to my heart.

Swimming makes me feel a rich mixture of varying emotions. The feeling of cool water rushing on me makes me feel incredibly at peace; the splashing of the water simultaneously induces a jolt of energy rush through me. Through swimming, I find refuge after a long day of work and studying.

I strongly recommend swimming to everyone because of its extraordinary benefits. The activity offers a wide range of advantages that other cardio activities like running and kickboxing can simply not compete with — a perfect combination of muscle building and cardio gains, comfort and a low amount of strain.

Swimming truly is the best cardio exercise for building a great figure. The activity burns a significant amount of calories, making it a great fat burner: doing the freestyle or butterfly stroke burns 300 and 450 calories, respectively.  Not only does the activity help with weight loss, but it also aids in maintaining and strengthening muscles. It works every single muscle across your body from your arms to your back to your legs, and the fact that water is far more resistant than air allows you to make significant gains quickly. If you want to concentrate on a particular part of the body, there are a variety of easy-to-use equipment to help you in your goal. For instance, for building up the legs and core, you can use a kickboard. If you want to help get ripped chest and arms, you can put a pull buoy between your legs to isolate those muscles. If you are bored with just your body weight, you can try adding some weights to your routine — like adding light weights to your ankles— to spice it up.

Critics of swimming point out that other cardio exercises are much better at fat loss than swimming. Running, for instance, burns far more calories on average than swimming, cycling or downhill skiing. Although running and some other cardio activities may offer better fat burning results, they neglect the muscle building component that is critical to a balanced workout with both strength and cardiovascular benefits. Long-distance running actually hurts strength gains because it shrinks muscle fibers. Although other versions of running, particularly sprinting, can lead to good muscle gains, they lack the whole body benefits of swimming because they just concentrate on the lower body predominantly.

The other big benefit of swimming is it is a fairly comfortable exercise to do. Because the water temperature is generally kept around 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, your body is working out in perfect temperature that is neither too hot or too cold: you won’t be sweating or shivering to death. In the case of other cardio activities, on the other hand, it could get really uncomfortable really quickly. Imagine dancing or riding a bike while being covered in an ocean of sweat. Moreover, exercising too much, especially in high amounts of heat, could lead to heat exhaustion, whose symptoms include nausea and even fainting. Fortunately, swimming prevents heat exhaustion due to the moderate temperature the pool would be in.

The last great benefit of swimming is the low impact on the joints. Because you wouldn’t be slamming your body against hard ground while swimming, the stress on bones, ligaments and tendons are minimal: that’s why many doctors recommend the activity for people with injuries and ailments like arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

While exercising, it is important to make sure you follow a regime that strengthens the body in the long-term rather than obtaining short-term gains and long-time complications as in other cardio options. Kickboxing, which involves kicking heavy bags and people as well as jumping motions, is especially hard on the knees. Running does not help either: a whopping 79 percent of runners will develop some sort of injury annually due to the high-impact nature of the sport.

With all the combined benefits of the sport, swimming clearly ranks king of all other cardio activities. Understanding these benefits makes it clear why swimming is the most popular recreational activity among children and adolescents and the fourth most popular recreational activity overall in the United States, besides the fact that it is really enjoyable to do. So, it’s time for you to grab some swim gear and a towel and hit the nearest pools near you: check out the swim times at Curry Hicks Cage and Boyden Gymnasium here. If you ever need a swim buddy, you can catch me at Curry Hicks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have a couple of great partner drills in mind.

Arnav Mehra is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].