As a senior, you’re probably already aware that exercise is beneficial. While you may feel that the ailments of aging limit your scope for physical activity, swimming is one exercise most seniors can do.
Seniors should learn to swim because it’s a non-weight-bearing way to build all-round fitness. It can help strengthen your muscles and reduce blood pressure. At the same time, it can help relieve the stiffness that often accompanies aging. You’ll also find it’s a tonic for your mental well-being.
If you think this sounds just too good to be true, perhaps you just need a little more convincing. In which case, this article is for you. Below, we’ll dive into the details of what you should know about why seniors should learn to swim.
Why Is Swimming Different From Other Activities?
As you age, among the many physical changes you’ll experience, muscle and bone-mass loss are ones that seem to creep up on you.
Reduced muscle and bone-mass impact your strength and can limit your mobility. It’s no surprise then that physical activity can seem like too much effort. In fact, data shows that less than 18% of over 65’s in the US meet federal guidelines on physical activity for adults.
However, bear in mind that all exercise isn’t the same. Swimming stands out against most forms of exercise for several reasons:
- It’s non-weight-bearing. So, you may suffer from joint aches and pain when doing ground-based exercises. But, you can pretty much forget about those when swimming.
- The water provides support. Consequently, even if you’re usually unsteady on your feet, you’ll be able to swim.
- Restricted mobility isn’t an obstacle to swimming. Though you may find getting around difficult on dry land, being in water frees up your body from its usual constraints. That’s unlike most other forms of exercise.
Even better, you don’t need any particular skill or talent to swim or become good at and enjoy it. And, as you’ll see in the video that follows, you can take up swimming no matter what your age:
Not convinced yet that, as a senior, you should learn to swim? Well, keep reading because the next section may just get you stripping off to suit up.
What Are the Benefits of Swimming for Seniors?
You probably already know that exercise is good for both physical and mental well-being. And it becomes especially important as you grow older.
Because of the factors mentioned above, swimming opens up the health benefits of exercise to all age groups, including seniors. Below are the potentially life-changing benefits you can expect to see from swimming as a senior.
Improved Muscle Mass From an All-Round Workout
One of the things that can creep up on you as you age is losing muscle mass. It’s shocking when you learn that this loss occurs at the rate of about 3-8% every decade after you hit the age of thirty.
Several factors contribute to this age-related problem, but that’s not to say you can’t do anything about it. It’s long been accepted that exercise can minimize age-induced muscle loss. That’s especially true of resistance-type exercises like swimming.
Unlike most other exercise forms, swimming engages many muscle groups. So, it’s perfect for improving overall body strength. When you’re in the water, your whole body has to work against the weight of the water. So, you get an all-over workout but without putting undue pressure on your joints.
Increasing your body’s overall strength not only enhances your mobility but will also improve your balance. That’s key to avoiding falls, which are a major cause of injury, even death, in over-65s.
Reduced Risk of Chronic Conditions and Diseases
Aging can make you more vulnerable to heart disease and other chronic conditions. Other common risks include diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis.
Exercise through swimming can help avoid or delay the onset of problems like these or ease the symptoms. You may even live longer. Studies show significantly lower mortality rates in swimmers compared to those who walk or run for exercise.
Swimming is an excellent exercise for strengthening your heart and improving circulation. A consequence of a healthier heart is better endurance, so you’ll feel less out of breath doing day-to-day activities.
Swimming can also make it easier to reach and maintain a healthier weight, which can ease conditions like Type 2 diabetes.
Swimming can also help keep your blood pressure under control. Since high blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, it’s something you need to keep in check.
Worldwide, osteoporosis causes around 8.9 million fractures. That poses a severe risk for seniors who can end up bedridden as a result.
While swimming isn’t thought to increase bone mass, it is believed to contribute to bone strength. The non-weight-bearing nature of swimming makes it a safe way to achieve this strengthening. In turn, that can cut your risk of fractures.
Swimming is also an excellent exercise for managing chronic pain conditions. Many exercises can exacerbate joint-related pain like arthritis. So it’s no wonder that such conditions act as a deterrent to exercising.
But, swimming in a warm pool can help loosen up those stiff joints, enabling you to move more freely than when out of the water. And since swimming doesn’t stress your joints, it’s an ideal way to be active and gain the pain-relieving benefits of exercise.
Increased Cognitive Function
As you grow older, you’ll probably start to notice that your thought processes get slower. Perhaps you begin to forget things or struggle to find the right words, making communication difficult.
It’s all part of your normal aging process, which brings about structural changes in our brains.
Studies suggest that exercise, in general, has a positive impact on cognitive function, slowing the rate of decline. It’s thought that exercise can also help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s in seniors.
Of course, other age-related ailments may prevent you from doing exercise that impacts your joints. If that sounds familiar, don’t worry. Learning to swim in your senior years is the ideal solution.
Enhanced Mental Well-Being
In addition to improved cognitive function, there are other mental health benefits that swimming can bring.
It can also provide a welcome boost to your overall mental well-being. Studies show exercise is an essential factor in counteracting the symptoms of depression and stress. These are issues that can afflict you as you grow older.
Aging may have brought on physical issues that affect your mobility. Or, they may prevent you from taking part in other exercises that put stress on your joints.
These issues can rob you of your independence and reduce your social interactions. It’s no wonder then that your self-esteem and mood can suffer.
However, even if age-related physical changes preclude you from other exercises, swimming is a way to get you active again. And, if you swim with a group, it can be a very social activity. Along with all the other positive changes that swimming can bring, this can lift your mental well-being.
Increased physical fitness and mobility can restore your independence and confidence. Both are crucial to your self-esteem and will leave you feeling more positive in general and improve your quality of life.
As you’ve seen, swimming is particularly suitable for seniors. It doesn’t matter if age has weakened you or restricted your mobility on your feet.
You may not be as quick or steady on your feet as you were. Learning to swim and the usual afflictions of age won’t be an obstacle to getting the numerous health benefits exercise can bring.
So, what are you waiting for? There’ll probably be no better time than now to take the plunge.
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