Summer’s almost here (well, unofficially, it’s already here) and that means barbecues, picnics—and, most importantly, beach and pool openings. But rather than playing Marco Polo or lazing atop an inflatable lounger in the sun (though you can certainly do that, too), consider swimming laps for fitness, pain relief, and because—it’s fun! Here are five reasons that testify as to why.
1. Killing Two Birds With One Stone
Many interested in getting in shape can’t decide whether to focus on losing weight or building strength. Swimming laps will allow you to do both. The intensity of pushing yourself through the water will ramp up your heart rate, causing you to burn calories and effectively lose weight. Additionally, water functions as a resistance that your muscles must work against, allowing you to increase your strength and endurance.
2. Different Strokes Hit Different Spots
Each of the core-four strokes—butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, and freestyle—target different muscle groups. For example, butterfly places an emphasis on your chest and general upper-body strength, while breaststrokes really work your hamstrings and hip adductors. Consequently, you can enjoy an ever-changing and exciting workout, knowing that you’re strengthening all your muscles. And don’t worry if you’re not a master at butterfly—the other three will certainly suffice.
3. Swimming = Relaxation
The grunting of weightlifters and the screeching and clanking of cardio machines at the gym can be anything but relaxing. But there’s nothing like the underwater silence and meditative repetition of slow freestyle for introspection or just blocking out thoughts and becoming one with the water. When you’re finished, you’ll be calm, relaxed, and rejuvenated.
4. The Joint-Saver
Because you’re buoyant in water, swimming removes much of the impact that your ankle and knee joints would face in an activity like running. “Swimming is the best type of cardio with the least amount of pressure on your joints,” confirms Jocelyn Salala, a swim instructor at Kinetic Sports Club in Pelham. Not only does swimming limit joint pain, it also strengthens your joints, so that if you do choose to pursue other sports, you’ll find yourself with fewer issues.
5. Hydration and Heat Relief
During our hot Westchester summers, ice Cream and A/C don’t have to be your only defenses against the blazing sun. Swimming can refresh you, in contrast to running or biking, during which you’ll likely be at the mercy of the elements. But remember: Just because you’re submerged in chlorinated water doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink the real stuff. Be sure to stay hydrated indoors as well as out.
Related: Westchester’s Best Summer Swimming