Take the plunge – swim for the health of it

The many benefits of choosing swimming as your physical activity.

Swimming is one of the best exercises for you. Find out why!
Swimming is one of the best exercises for you. Find out why!

Did you know that swimming is one of the best exercises you can do for your cardiovascular fitness? Swimming is also an activity that you can enjoy at all ages, and in all seasons (indoor or outdoor pools). For people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, joint disease or heart disease, it can be difficult to find an exercise that doesn’t aggravate your condition.

Swimming is also a good exercise choice for people with diabetes. Swimming burns calories and can help control weight. Being physically active overall can lower blood sugar and help keep diabetes under control.

How does exercise improve blood glucose? When you do moderate exercise, like swimming, your heart beats a little faster and your breathing increases. Your muscles use more glucose, the sugar in your blood stream. Over time, this can lower your blood sugar levels. It also makes the insulin in your body work better.

How does exercise improve blood pressure? A healthy weight, a strong heart and good emotional health are all good for your blood pressure. Physical activity not only helps control your blood pressure, it also helps you manage your weight, strengthens your heart and manages your stress level.

There are many benefits for choosing swimming as a physical activity:  

  • Swimming helps strengthen your core muscles, adds muscle tone and is considered easy on your joints and muscles. For those people with arthritis or joint disease, swimming allows gentle movements and less hard impact resistance on muscles.
  • Swimming is an excellent way to burn calories. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person weighing 160 pounds, can burn 423 calories in one hour of swimming laps.
  • Swimming is safe for women who are pregnant (always follow your health care providers instructions).
  • Swimming is a good physical activity families can do together.
  • Swimming can help relieve tension by regularly bringing on feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.
  • Swimming, with even moderate strokes and movement, can be more beneficial than strenuous physical exercise outside of the pool.
  • Swimming is less stressful on our feet. For people with diabetes and those with chronic joint pain swimming allows for an almost tension-free foot workout.

Follow these helpful guidelines to begin your swimming program:

  • For those with chronic health conditions, you need to talk with your health care provider before starting a swimming program.
  • Enroll in an exercise class which best fits your level of activity.
  • Pace yourself! Swimming is an individual activity and can be enjoyed at a non- competitive pace. Simply being in the pool or water making slow strides and stretches burns calories. You don’t have to do grueling laps.
  • For people with diabetes, wear your diabetic bracelet or necklace in the water. Remember to always wear foot protection such as water shoes/socks while you are swimming in pools or open water.
  • Fuel up 30 minutes before you go swimming. Eating the right meal or snack will help give you the energy to swim.
  • Carry a snack or glucose tablets in case your blood sugar gets low.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.

According to the American Heart Association, if you have not been active for quite some time or if you are beginning a new activity or exercise program, begin gradually. Consult your healthcare professional if you have cardiovascular disease or any other pre-existing condition.

For more tips on health and nutrition visit Michigan State University Extension at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/chronic_disease.

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