It’s no surprise that taking the plunge at the local pool has been a favored form of exercise for older adults. It’s easy on joints, reduces the risks of injury and improves cardiovascular strength. But there are other advantages to swimming as we age.
Studies show that hitting the pool is just as beneficial to the mind as it is the body. Here are five reasons why you could feel happier if you swim for exercise.
Eliminates the risk of falling
Along with swimming, the most common form of exercise for aging adults is walking. By adding swimming, older adults can develop strong core muscles that improve balance control. In short, adding exercise in the water will improve your performance on land. Improved balance creates more confidence when walking, and that peace of mind makes for a happy person.
Builds brain power
Swimming may not turn you into a genius, but it can make your brain work more efficiently. An article in the New York Daily News referred to a study conducted by Howard Carter of the University of Western Australia School of Sports Science that suggested “immersing the body in water to the level of the heart increases blood flow through the brain’s cerebral arteries, thus improving vascular health and cognitive function.” The results of the study showed a 14 percent increase in blood flow to the middle cerebral artery and a 9 percent increase to the posterior cerebral artery when test subjects were immersed in water.
In an article written by James Thornton, this master swimmer and psychotherapist describes swimming as the “alternating stretch and relaxation of muscles while simultaneously breathing in a rhythmic pattern” that echoes the movement of many forms of yoga or muscle relaxation exercises. “Swimming in open water can be a great stress reliever and an opportunity to make great memories with people who share the same interests,” added Scott Hansen, executive director of Lake Ridge Senior Living.
Author Therese Borchard added that swimming “stimulates brain chemicals that foster the growth of nerve cells. Exercise also affects neurotransmitters such as serotonin that influence mood and produces ANP, a stress-reducing hormone, which helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety.”
Waves of depression
“All aerobic workouts release endorphins while helping to block stress hormones and produce serotonin that can relieve depression,” Borchard said. “However, swimming is particularly effective at shrinking panic and sadness because of the combination of stroke mechanics, breathing, and repetitiveness. It’s basically a form of whole-body, moving meditation.”
Immediate sense of accomplishment
There’s no delayed gratification here. A swimmer can see the distance, the calories burned, the toned body, and the improved technique directly following a round of swimming. And that motivates a swimmer to return the next day.
If you are looking for a form of exercise that can remain a part of your daily fitness routine as you age, consider swimming. It improves balance, increases brain function, relieves stress and depression, and acts as an effective motivator. And that’s worth diving into.
Amy Osmond Cook is the Executive Director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about best practices in senior care. Contact her at email@example.com.
This article was previously published by the OC Register and has been republished here with permission.