In the age of sports science and new technology, athletes in the 21st century are fitter than ever. Their heavy schedules are combatted with strict regimens and diets to best benefit their performance, be it on a football pitch, a tennis court or on the track.
As well as their primary training however, plenty of athletes use a simple method of secondary training to stay fit. Swimming is one of the best and most simple ways to stay in shape and hundreds of elite athletes have taken note.
Professional footballer Mohamed Salah, a forward for Liverpool Football Club, is one of the biggest proponents of this method. As well as training every day throughout the week with the club, his personal routine comprises of a lot of calisthenics, yoga and swimming.
One of his main uses of swimming is for recovery and he takes it very seriously. Following Liverpool’s win over AC Milan in the Champions League last season, Salah posted a snap of himself having a 3am swim for a recovery session.
He also swims in the summertime during the offseason to stay fit and ready for his return to full time training and matches afterwards.
Online betting odds have Salah’s Liverpool side as one of the favourites to lift the Champions League this year and the Egyptian star will no doubt be relying on his swimming to keep him performing optimally.
But why swimming and what does it do to help the body keep fit?
To start with, it helps to build cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength as you are using a lot of the major muscles all around your body. While the legs kick, the arms pull, and you need to tighten your core to provide power to the legs.
The breaststroke requires lots of arm and leg movement, providing one of the best muscle workouts. You are using your deltoids, pectorals, biceps and triceps, back muscles and quads to name a few.
It is one of the best aerobic exercises and gives your body a full workout.
It is also even better than running for cardio training as there is greater resistance in water than in the air. As it takes more effort to kick in water than to take a step whilst running, it is essentially a form of resistance training.
It raises your heart rate and improves your circulation just like running but without the impact that running may have on your joints.
Studies show that swimming for just 30 minutes a day can reduce coronary heart disease in women by 30 to 40 percent. It can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, preventing you from potentially life-threatening illnesses.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina looked at over 40,000 men, aged 20 to 90, for over 32 years monitoring their health habits. The results showed that those who swam had a 50 percent lower death rate than runners, walkers, or men who didn’t exercise.
Whilst it is resistance training it is also low impact as it is not weight bearing. This is why many physiotherapists will suggest swimming to those recovering from injuries.
According to a study by Harvard Health Publishing, swimming and running actually burn the same number of calories per hour. This means that trading running for swimming is kinder to your bones and joints and you don’t have to give up any of the health benefits.
Many physiotherapists will also recommend swimming for those recovering from injuries. Not only does it help regain your fitness levels after being away from exercise, but the water also itself can actually aide your recovery.
The buoyancy we have whilst in the water reduces impact and stress when exercising, supporting injured muscles and joints during recovery. The water also presses in on injured areas, reducing swelling and improving motion.
Aside from the physical benefits, there are also plenty of benefits that swimming can have on your mental health. Whilst all aerobic exercise has been proven to help you mentally, swimming seems one of the most beneficial.
As well as releasing endorphins as many runners will get from their ‘runners high’, studies show that it also encourages the growth of new brain cells. This is especially true for the part of the brain that declines when under chronic stress, reducing your stress levels.
It is a meditative exercise and the focus on your breathing, stretching your body and the sound of the water rushing past you almost makes it feel like Yoga. The improvements this has on your brain health is remarkable.
Dr. Howard Carter of the University of Western Australia, School of Sport Science studied how the brain reacted when swimming. He found that blood flow improved in the brain.
“We found that brain blood flow is higher when subjects were immersed in water up to the level of the heart compared to on land — laying the groundwork for further investigation of its effects on cerebrovascular health,” said Carter in The American Journal of Physiology.
Swimming is one of the easiest and best ways to keep fit both physically and mentally. The low impact nature of the exercise means that it is kinder to your body than running and can help you recover if you are to get injured.
Using all of your major muscles and pumping blood round your body, there are truly not many better aerobic exercises.