We leave for the beach tomorrow so I’m sprinting around doing last minute things (one of them being getting my car cleaned out – any other mamas out there with super duper gross vehicles?? It’ll just get dirty on the way down, but I digress.).
I’ve got a guest post today from Becky on swimming & heart health – makes me want to swim a few laps when we get to Florida!!
How Does Swimming Benefit Your Heart?
Lots of people talk about how great swimming is as a form of exercise. But it is supposed to be really beneficial for the heart. After a co-worker fell prey to a heart attack, I began to study the heart and swimming, to understand the connection, and why swimming was so beneficial for the heart.
Slower heart rate in the water. I was surprised to discover that the resting heart rate goes down by 10 beats per minute just being in the water. Even more interesting, the maximum heart rate goes down by 10 to 30 beats. When someone is swimming, the heart will pump the same amount of blood as in other forms of exercise, but it will happen more slowly. No one knows for sure why the heart pumps more slowly in the water, but it is speculated that the lower temperature of the water, and decreased pull of gravity may account for the difference. Here are some great resources with more details about the heart and swimming:
Lowered risk of heart disease. It was pretty shocking to read that heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, it the number one killer in America. That really got my attention. Many of the problems with the heart are connected to the buildup of plaque in the walls of arteries, making them more narrow and restricting blood flow. If a blood clot occurs and gets stuck, it causes a heart attack. Swimming comes into this picture because it is easy on the cardiovascular system. With the lower heart rates, improved breathing, better circulation and lower blood pressure that occur from swimming, the risk of artery constriction, blood clots and heart attacks is lower.
Why not live longer? A study by the University of South Carolina that followed over 40,000 men for more than 32 years found that the men who were regular swimmers had a 50 percent lower death rate than the non-swimmers. That’s a long study, and pretty startling results. By strengthening the heart, swimming can allow longer life, which is a pretty amazing outcome. There are now waterproof heart rate monitors, for those like me who want to see tangible proof that the swimming is having beneficial effects. Why not see how swimming is extending your life expectancy as you’re doing it?
Strengthen the cardiovascular system. Anyone who watched Michael Phelps in the Olympics was probably amazed like I was at how powerfully he could move through the water. While we would all like to be able to swim like that, it likely won’t happen. But he is just a strong visual example of how swimming can improve the cardiovascular system, which makes the body use oxygen more efficiently, and allows the heart to work more easily while moving through the water. Outside the pool, that effective workout will translate into everyday life, by lowering the blood pressure and reducing stress while you are going about your daily routines.
Stress reduction helps the heart. Get out of the pool after a good swim, and try to remember what you were so stressed about at work. It’s hard to do – when I swim, I just let go of all the stresses in my world, immersing myself in just doing the strokes. That translates to lowered stress, lower blood pressure, and less load on my heart. One study evaluated blood pressure levels on nearly 46,000 male and female walkers, runners, swimmers and non-swimmers. Swimmers had the lowest blood pressure numbers, followed by runners. Swimming to lower stress has a tangible outcome.
While I was very sad to hear that my co-worker had a heart attack – like so many other people experience – and it firmed up my resolved to swim and keep my heart in great shape.
Becky Flanigan writes for AnApplePerDay.com, and her areas of expertise are kids and parenting, exercise and health. She is avid about her workouts, which have ranged from aqua jogging to marathon training. She and her husband Ed also enjoy entertaining, and taking vacations with their 3 kids.
QUESTION: Do you swim?? When’s the last time you were in the pool?