It’s one of the most popular forms of exercise – and for good reason. For starters, it’s the best all-round workout, ticking the cardio box and full-body strengthening; it’s a life skill; and widely accessible.
“Swimming is the one activity you can do throughout your life, from birth through to older age,” says Ian Freeman, coaching system technical lead at the Amateur Swimming Association. “As well as being great at relaxing the mind and providing a social environment, because water supports up to 90 per cent of the body’s weight, swimming is the perfect way for people with impairments, injuries or illnesses to stay active.”
Despite these benefits, recent figures suggest one in five UK adults can’t swim, while Speedo found more than two-thirds can’t swim more than 100m, and one in three say they’re not confident in water. Building confidence in the water may take time, but it’s possible, and group or one-on-one lessons are widely available. Inquire at your local leisure centre or visit www.scottishswimming.com. Also, Speedo is offering free 60-minute swim fitness sessions with instructors across the UK until October (www.speedo.co.uk/dive-in).
With the Rio Olympics starting next week, and triathlons growing ever more popular, there is much more emphasis on training nowadays, but if you’re happy with your gentle, leisurely swims, that’s great too – they’ll still be doing the world of good.
“A gentle swim can burn over 200 calories in half an hour – more than double that of walking – while a faster swim would see that indulgent chocolate bar gone quicker than if you went running or cycling. Plus, because exercising in water makes your body work harder, 30 minutes in a pool is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land,” Freeman says. “By combining 30 minutes of swimming three or more times per week alongside a balanced, healthy diet and lifestyle is one of the best ways to reduce body fat and maximise weight losses and maintain a positive mental wellbeing.”
Ramp up your workout
If you are looking to improve your performance in the pool or pursue goals, however, there’s lots you can do. Freeman suggests joining a swimming club, which is a “great way to get tips on developing your swimming as well as having the support of other swimmers”.
If you’d like to structure your swims, as a good High Intensity Interval Training workout – which is proven to increase metabolism – he suggests starting with a ten-minute warm-up using any stroke, followed by eight lengths with your fastest stroke with ten seconds’ rest between efforts, and a five-minute cool-down using any stroke.
Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson, who scooped silver at London 2012 in the men’s 200m breaststroke and is now a Speedo Dive In ambassador, has these top three tips: “Work on the rhythm of your breathing. This will allow you to swim for longer, and makes it easier as it doesn’t sap your energy so much. Secondly, work on your leg kick with freestyle. Kicks are really important, taking the stress and strain off your shoulders and sending you through the water faster. And thirdly, swim at a lower intensity for longer, rather than trying to swim fast but as far.”