Whether you choose to run or swim, they both help you lose weight and improve cardio fitness. It’s just the advantages of swimming outweigh those of running for many reasons.
What’s so good about Swimming?
- Resistance effect in water – strengthens the body
- Burns Calories
- Keeps blood pressure down – good cardiovascular workout without straining the heart.
- Weightlessness of water – no stress on the joints, lengthens the spine
A great natural advantage to swimming is the resistance effect. Water is 1000 times more dense than air, so when you swim, it’s like weight training without the dumbbells. The water itself is your weight training.
You get a full body workout when you swim that puts little stress on your joints. You engage the muscles of the upper and lower body. This includes the legs, core, the upper and lower back, the arms, shoulders and chest.
Just like weight training, swimming engages and tones muscle due to the resistance. Although running is a great cardio workout, it does little to enhance a dynamic muscular body.
Burns the Calories
A moderate-intensity workout classifies keeping your heart-rate at 50-70 % of maximum heart rate.
A rigorous workout runs at 70-85 % max heart-rate. After an intensive 30 minute breaststroke swim, you can burn up to 300 calories. This can vary according to your weight. The heavier you are, the more calories you burn. By burning 500 calories more than you eat every day, you can lose a pound of fat a week. Okay, this does not sound much. But think long-term. After a month you can lose about 4-5 pounds – almost half a stone. Multiply that by 6 months and you have lost 2 stone of body fat.
Why Swimming helps the Heart Work More Efficiently?
When the body is in an upright position (e.g. when run or jump),the heart has to work hard to pump blood and oxygen to and from the lower extremities. This increase demand on the heart can lead to spikes in blood pressure – not good for the heart.
The American College of Sports Medicine states: ‘Swimming works the cardiovascular system without causing major increases in blood pressure.’ Because the body is in a horizontal position whilst swimming, the heart does have to work as hard. There is almost no gravity involved, so the blood pressure stays down.
The Weightlessness of Water
Yet another benefit swimming has over running, is the weightlessness effect in water. At the end of every stroke – breast stroke, freestyle etc, your body stretches out. Because the water holds your body up, it enables you to stretch out whilst in motion. The spine can then lengthen, elongating the gaps between the vertebrae.
Physiotherapists encourage patients with disc problems to swim because of this spine lengthening effect. It takes pressure off the discs.
Benefits and Risks of Running
Running generally has great benefits.
It reduces the chances of contracting:-
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Bone density
- Weight control
The risks of long distance running without a supervised trainer needs consideration though. They can advice you on nutrition, rest and good running technique. For safety reasons:- A medical check to look out for heart conditions, bio mechanical issues or other risk factors are a must.
Marathon running over extends the immune system. It makes the body produce excessive amounts of cortisol to reduce swelling. The advice to runners is to increase vitamin C, get plenty of sleep and avoid outside stresses. This helps recuperation and boosts immunity.
To Sum Up
I do not want to put runners off what they obviously love doing. It’s health benefits are undeniable. However, long distance running does put enormous strains on the ankle, hip and knee joints.
Swimming has pluses for strength, weight loss, low joint stress and cardiovascular endurance.
There’s no negative points about swimming apart from the necessity to learn how to swim. It can be a problem for many who were not introduced to the water at an early age. I say, it’s never too late to learn. Swimming lessons are not expensive and there are plenty of instructors pool side whatever venue you choose.