College students are always looking for a bargain, and when it comes to physical health and exercise, swimming is a great deal. Swimming has been enjoyed as a sport, exercise and recreational activity for hundreds of years and provides many physical and mental health benefits.
Swimming is a low-impact, effective workout that combines three important types of exercise in one: aerobics, stretching and strengthening. Nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming; swimming against the resistance of the water helps to keep your heart rate up without putting impact stress on your body. This makes swimming great for not only building muscle strength but endurance and cardiovascular fitness as well. Swimming laps is a common and effective form of aquatic exercise that anyone can try -- it’s low-impact and has a meditative quality that forces you to focus on your movement and breathing. Any stroke is good for lap swimming, and it not only improves endurance and cardiovascular health but can help lower blood pressure, strengthen your balance, help sharpen thinking, and help reduce stress. To get a good workout in when lap swimming depends on your experience in lap swimming.
In a 30-minute workout, beginners should start out with 20 to 30 laps, intermediate swimmers will swim about 40 to 50 laps, and advanced swimmers will swim about 60 laps or more.
“The best way to get a good workout in by swimming is to swim with intent, swim with a purpose. Goals vary from person to person but if you keep in mind what you want to accomplish, you can keep yourself motivated,” Johnny Martin, a junior mechanical engineering major and Swim Curriculum Captain for the UMD Swim Team, said.
While lap swimming is an effective exercise, your progression will be gradual. Do not try to swim 50 laps in a workout as a beginner; instead, start slow and work your way up through workouts.
Junior journalism major Courtney Ruddy recalled swimming in Lake Minnetonka.
She said, “after some laps near the shore of the beach on the lake, I relax with a nice floating session.” While swimming as exercise can provide many physical benefits, swimming for recreational purposes can help alleviate stress and release “feel-good” endorphins to help regulate mood, according to the U.S. Masters Swimming organization.
“Swimming was always really calming for me; I think it's the whole floating aspect of it,” Ruddy said.
If you don't want to swim laps, simply floating still activates the core muscles in your back and abdomen, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Sophomore criminology major Megan McCluskey recalled that her family took her to their local pool or beach every summer to teach her to swim, saying “it can be calming and is something that everyone should learn.”
“I enjoy swimming because the cold water is relaxing and it feels like you are floating. It’s very different from every other type of exercise that you can choose,” McCluskey said.
The stress-free, relaxing feel that swimming creates during exercise is done by boosting “feel-good” chemicals, like serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine, in the brain. These boosts also increase steroid reserves, which allows you to become more resilient to stress, according to the U.S. Masters Swimming organization. Due to swimming’s low-impact nature, it is a great recreational activity for people of all ages that you can do for a lifetime. Ruddy said, “I love that almost anybody can do it… [swimming] is not limiting, it doesn't discriminate; as long as you're doing it for your own enjoyment… I really recommend it.”