The Bright Side Blog

Everyone into the pool! (But no running…)

Everyone into the pool! (But no running…)

If you’ve been working out with us for a while, you know we’re big believers in cross-training. MYXing up your sessions to include cardio, strength, mobility, and flexibility training makes you stronger, and your fitness more well-rounded. Cross-training is the balance our bodies need to prevent overtraining one muscle group at the expense of others, and also avoid overuse injuries. Because who needs those?

It’s true that your MYX Plus provides options for a complete fitness program. But hey, it’s summer, and we also want you to get outdoors. And if there’s a pool nearby we want you to dive right in. Why? Because swimming is the ultimate way to cross-train. It’s a full-body workout that engages your core, arms, back, shoulders, and of course your legs. Moving all of those muscles requires a lot of energy, and burns plenty of calories, but there are other reasons to bathing-suit up. Here are 5 awesome benefits of swimming.

It’s cardio and strength training rolled into one

In the pool, if you’re not constantly moving, whether swimming or treading water, you're sinking to the bottom. This makes for some killer cardio because it keeps your heart rate elevated. And since water is about 800 times denser than air, your muscles have to fight against constant resistance while you're in the water, which is excellent for toning some long, lean muscles. That resistance also promotes muscle balance (there’s that balance again) since muscle fibers must be equally recruited during flexion and extension when you’re moving through water.

It's easy on the joints

The buoyancy of water, which reduces your body weight by about 90% (i.e., decreases weight bearing) means you’re less likely to injure your joints or muscles. So it’s possible to work out on consecutive days at a higher intensity without any wear and tear on your body. If you are injured, research shows that swimming is actually better than straight-up rest for exercise recovery. Many orthopedic issues and most back pain problems can be relieved through developing both sides of a muscle, another reason why swimming is a great way to work out.

But just because it’s low impact doesn’t mean swimming isn’t working your body hard. Because water is denser than air, moving through H2O puts more external pressure on your limbs than out-of-water training. Plus, that pressure is uniformly distributed and doesn’t collect in your knees, hips, or the other places that bear most of the burden when you exercise with gravity hanging around.

It’s great for your lungs

During a bike ride or a run, your breath tends to be shallow and your exhales forceful. With swimming it’s the other way around—you breathe in quickly and deeply, and then let the air trickle out. Because your head is under water when you swim, these breathing adjustments are vital, and they may improve the strength of your respiratory muscles. When your face is underwater, oxygen is also at a premium, so your body adapts to use oxygen more efficiently. It learns to take in more fresh air with every breath, and expel more carbon dioxide with every exhalation. This conditioning results in a lower resting heart rate, and lower blood pressure.

It’s a special kind of stress reliever

Any type of exercise-generated endorphins will do wonders to lower your stress level and brighten your mood, but swimming has its own brand of mood-boosting benefit: The rhythmic breathing of swimming (assuming you’ve got your strokes down fairly well) can activate the parasympathetic nervous system — the part of our nervous system also known as the relaxation response, which puts our body and mind into a state of calm.  

Being submerged in water also dulls the amount of sensory information that typically bombards your body, encouraging a feeling of wellbeing, according to a study published in Pain Research & Management. (Not unlike a long soak in the bathtub.) Swimming can be meditative, because you’re usually focusing your attention on each stroke, and that allows your brain to switch off from day-to-day worries. One study found that swimming can reduce anger and fatigue.

It counters computer hunch

Working out in a horizontal position—as opposed to the upright nature of other types of exercise—is a great way to offset the rounded-shoulders we tend to have from endless hours hunched over our computer, or even a steering wheel. When you swim, your back tends to be slightly arched in the opposite direction, which can improve your posture and may help prevent the back injuries and pain that stem from long stretches glued to the sofa or a chair.

Whether freestyle, sidestroke, backstroke, breaststroke—even a game of Marco Polo or water volleyball—you can vary the muscles you’re using as well as your moves to keep your summer fitness interesting. Wherever you take to the water -- at a pool, a lake, a pond, the ocean, or a watering hole — just jump in.

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