By TEHRENE FIRMAN,
While lounging around poolside with a good book and some ice-cold lemonade in hand is sure to get rid of any pent-up stress, actually getting in the water is the real health-booster. And summer isn’t the only time to take advantage. In fact, hitting up an indoor facility during the colder months can leave you with a more intense, full-body workout than some of your favorite boutique classes.
In recent years, more people have caught on to the many pros of spending time in the water. There are now workout classes where you get to live out your mermaid dreams (tail and all!) or have a full-on dance party to hip-hop music underwater, and even ballerinas are taking advantage of the pool for low-impact sweat-sessions. So, why does everyone seem to be flocking to the water? Well, when it comes to the benefits of swimming, there are plenty. Ready to dive in? Here are seven benefits of swimming to take advantage of year-round.
1. Swimming can help with joint pain
If all that jumping around in bootcamp classes or logging miles on your runs has resulted in some joint pain, swimming could be the solution. Not only does water give you some relief by reducing the amount of pressure on your body (buoyancy is a beautiful thing), but the warm water also plays a role, helping banish any stiffness or discomfort you’re experiencing. Basically, you’re getting a low-impact, super-soothing workout that’s incredibly gentle on your body.
2. You can improve your mental health by going for a swim
Swimming isn’t just great for the body—its effects also extend to the mind. A study published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills found college students who attended swim classes regularly experienced better moods than those who didn’t. Whether you’re having a down day and are in need of a pick-me-up or are going through a rough time in life, heading over to the pool and doing some laps could improve your mental health.
3. Swimming can make you a better runner
If you’re trying to up your running skills, it might be time to hit the pool. In a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, researchers found those who practiced controlled breathing while swimming majorly improved their game. The technique made them able to use their oxygen more effectively, which helped them run faster and not get tired as quickly. And the craziest part? It only took 12 training sessions at the pool to see results.
4. Swimmers tend to live longer
If you want to live as long as possible, swimming seems to be the way to go. In a study of 80,300 participants published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers looked at which types of exercise had the ability to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality the most. While cycling reduced the risk by 15 percent and running didn’t show any significant changes, swimming reduced the risk by 28 percent.
5. Swimming can strengthen your lungs
During other types of exercise—like running or cycling—your breathing tends to be shallow. That’s not the case when you’re swimming, though, and the switch can do a lot of good in strengthening your lungs—especially with all that time you spend underwater. “You breathe in quickly and deeply, and then let the air trickle out. Because your head is underwater when you swim, these breathing adjustments are vital, and they may improve the strength of your respiratory muscles,” David Tanner, PhD, tells Time. “This kind of breathing keeps the lung alveoli—the millions of little balloon-like structures that inflate and deflate as your breathe—from collapsing and sticking together.”
6. It can make your body younger
All exercise is going to help keep your mind and body healthy for years to come. When it comes to swimming, though, the benefits get really impressive. In a study from Indiana University, researchers found swimming 2 to 3 miles anywhere from 3 to 5 times per week can postpone the aging process, delaying natural decline—which typically begins at age 35—to age 70. Yep, it basically helps your body feel decades younger than you actually are.
7. You’ll actually have fun while you’re doing it
If you choose an exercise you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick to it—and what’s more enjoyable than splashing around in the water? Sure, doing breaststrokes up and down a pool is incredibly challenging, but spending time in the pool, in general, is still going to help out your health. Any time spent moving around with all that resistance from the water—even if you’re just playing some enjoyable swimming pool games like Marco Polo or cannonballs—can make a difference.