1. Lower Stress, Higher Spirits and a Better Brain
William Wilson wrote in the 1883 book, “The Swimming Instructor”: “The experienced swimmer, when in the water, may be classed among the happiest of mortals in the happiest of moods, and in the most complete enjoyment of the happiest of exercises.”
2. Lower Risk of Diabetes
When it comes to warding off diabetes, there are few prescriptions as powerful as aerobic exercise. In one study, men reduced their risk of diabetes by an average of 6 percent for every 500 calories a week they burned in aerobic exercise [source: Bobalik]. With just 30 minutes of breaststroke swimming three times per week, you could burn 900 calories — reducing your risk of contracting type 2 diabetes by over 10 percent. A study that focused on women also suggested the same benefits for the fairer sex: Vigorous exercise just once a week (like the kind derived from a robust swimming session) lowered their risk of contracting type 2 diabetes by 16 percent over inactive women [source: Bobalik].
3. Improved Cholesterol
Being healthy is more about having the right ratio of cholesterol in your body than just having low amounts of the stuff in your blood. Specifically, it’s beneficial to have higher levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
4. Improved Asthma Symptoms
Unlike exercising in the often dry air of the gym, or contending with seasonal allergies or frigid winter air, swimming provides the chance to work out in moist air, which can help reduce exercise-induced asthma symptoms.
5. Weight Control
For some time, some people thought that because water is generally cooler than our body temperatures, it would be difficult to lose weight with a water workout. Like many old ideas about exercise, this has since been revised: Swimming is now recognized as one of the biggest calorie burners around, and it’s great for keeping weight under control.
6. A Healthier Heart
In addition to toning visible muscles like pectorals, triceps and quads, swimming also helps improve the most important muscle in our bodies: the heart.
7. Improved Flexibility
Unlike exercise machines in a gym that tend to isolate one body part at a time (like a bicep curl machine, for example), swimming puts the body through a broad range of motion that helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible.
8. Increased Muscle Tone and Strength
Ever see a flabby dolphin or a weak-looking competitive swimmer? We didn’t think so. That’s because swimming is a great way to increase muscular strength and muscle tone — especially compared to several other aerobic exercises.
9. The Ability to Do More with Less
Swimming offers something no other aerobic exercise does: the ability to work your body without harsh impact to your skeletal system.
10. You Just Might Live Longer
If the previous nine reasons weren’t enough to convince you of the health benefits of swimming, perhaps this one will: It can keep you from dying. Actually, we’re not promising Aquaman-like immortality, but it seems that swimming can at least help you avoid dying prematurely. Researchers at the University of South Carolina followed 40,547 men, aged 20 to 90, for 32 years and discovered that those who swam had a 50 percent lower death rate than runners, walkers or men who got no exercise. The study authors concluded that the same benefits would be received by aqua-women as well as men [source: Prevention].