By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Seventy-five percent of our planet is water. Can you swim? Swimming, or aquatic exercise as it’s currently called, is a rhythmic, totally dynamic physical activity that calls on every large muscle in our bodies. It not only promotes flexibility and builds lean muscle mass, but it soothes, energizes and massages. It’s truly one of the world’s most perfect full-body exercises, developing the swimmer’s strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
The Sporting Club’s aquatic manager, Kevin Bree, is our über-swim coach who, if the world was flat, would probably swim off of it. Steps from the club is a Jr. Olympic outdoor San Diego pool and Jacuzzi, surrounded by cabanas and fire pits. It’s a wonderful extension of more traditional indoor gym activities, a terrific cross-training element, and ideal for a seasonal change-up to weightless, ageless exercise.
Astonishingly, in 1910, a YMCA handbook assured that outdoor swimming would “prevent the growth of gray hair.” While not quite accurate, the buoyancy of swimming does protect vulnerable joints, and like many forms of vigorous exercise, may well add to longevity. Swimming burns about 100 calories for every ten minutes of freestyle exercise the average person does. It may not be the single best way to lose weight, but your heart, lungs and muscles sure appreciate the workout.
Think about this: when your body is in the pool up to your waist, your body bears just 50% of its weight. Go deeper, up to your chest, and your body now bears about 35%. Go all the way up to your neck and you are only bearing 10% of your own weight.
Unlike jogging, every arm stroke and leg kick is a form of resistance training through the twelve times as dense as air substance that water is. Want to improve your flexibility? Think about the wide arcs of your arms, your hip movement as your legs move, the reaching and you’ll see that aquatic exercise keeps your joints and ligaments highly flexible. Pool workouts also help avoid asthma attacks and some research demonstrates that swimming can actually help improve asthma. Like other forms of cardio exercise, swimming can also improve cholesterol levels, and provides benefits to your arteries as well, keeping them flexible by keeping your endothelium healthy—the lining of your arteries. There is even some data that suggests that swimming can help replace lost brain cells through a process known as neurogenesis. And of course, your cardiovascular system benefits by improving your body’s use of oxygen without overworking your heart. Naturally, checking with your doctor before taking on any exercise, especially if you know you have a medical condition, is the smart thing to do.
All this in a low-risk, low-impact exercise just steps away from the club. So after you’ve improved your cardiovascular condition, flexibility, physical appearance and posture, reduced your stress level and improved your balance, it’s time to stretch out, enjoy the sun and soak up the sun’s warmth—with sunscreen of course. Just think of all that chlorine as…perfume!