The unique benefits of swimming

Michelle Sutton

On the way to the train station recently to attend the e-commerce awards in London, James and I heard an interesting radio discussion. 

Dr Michael Mosley was asking if all types of exercise are as good as each other. Are any activities better for us? 
Well it turns out that over time, swimmers gain more positive effects than for example, runners, walkers or cyclists. 

So why is this?
All are moderate to vigorous forms of exercise but swimming offers a few unique benefits to the body, including improving how long we live, our memory, brain/muscle function  and reaction time. 

How does swimming do this?
For a start, being immersed and keeping afloat in the water strengthens many muscle groups and moving through it somehow improves the elasticity of our blood vessels. The hydrostatic effect and resistance from the water improves the blood supply to both the brain and muscles.

This protects us from one of the most preventable causes of death, cardiovascular disease that includes high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.

Dr Mosley, speaking on his Radio 4 show Just One Thing said swimming gives immense benefits and can even help you live longer. The doctor who is behind his version of the 5:2 diet and Fast 800 eating plans said it actually helps the elasticity of the arteries in 'ways that land based exercises don't'.

Researchers measured these benefits by comparing cycling on land to cycling in water which certainly conjures up an amusing image! They are not sure why exactly but cycling in water improves elasticity more than on land. Likewise, Nordic walking in water is better for us than walking on land.

As blood pressure falls and rises with every heartbeat, arteries need to be strong yet flexible enough to withstand the high pressures involved.

Finally, swimmers with arthritis reported reduced pain and increased joint function. The swimming gives them an anti-inflammatory effect.

You can listen here to the full 15 minute programme here:

Just One Thing - with Michael Mosley

So if you love swimming and have a local pool……give it a go and keep it up! 


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Expert advice

“As a pharmacist I see that keeping fit is important and am keen to promote the eye health and water safety benefits of prescription goggles and masks.”

Michelle Sutton (BPharm MRPharmS)
Founder of Butterflies Eyecare

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