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6 Benefits of Swimming for Seniors

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Swimming is a fun way to pass time in the summer, but it’s also a terrific way for seniors and caregivers to stay in shape. Swimming is a low-impact sport, which is great for people suffering from sports injuries or conditions such as arthritis. For older adults, maintaining an active lifestyle is vital, and swimming is a particularly beneficial activity. Here’s a look at a few of the most important benefits of swimming for seniors.

1. Low-Impact Exercise is Ideal for Aging Joints

Swimming is considered a low-impact, non-weight-bearing exercise. It doesn’t put pressure on the spine, knees, or hips; in fact, the buoyancy of water supports some of your body weight and reduces the effect of gravity, which alleviates some of the regular strain on these joints. It’s particularly helpful for seniors who have arthritis or other conditions such as fibromyalgia. According to a 2016 study, swimming helps to relieve pain and improve quality of life among people with knee osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia just as effectively as walking.

2. Helps to Improve Flexibility & Range of Motion

The buoyancy of water helps in other ways, too. By reducing the ordinary strain on joints, swimmers are able to move their limbs and joints through the full range of motion more easily in the water. Using the full range of motion regularly helps to keep joints supple and improves flexibility, an important factor for older adults’ health and well-being. For seniors with a limited range of motion on land, stretching in the water is a good way to improve flexibility.

3. Helps to Improve Stability, Reducing Fall Risk

Swimming works all major muscle groups, resulting in stronger muscles overall, especially the upper body, core muscles, and leg muscles – all important muscle groups for posture and stability, which reduce the risk of falls. One study conducted in Australia evaluated 1,700 men age 70 and older and found that those who swam were 33% less likely to fall compared to men who did not swim.

What’s more, men who participated in other forms of exercise in addition to swimming (such as golfing or using treadmills or stationary bikes) were no less likely to fall compared to those who only participated in swimming.

4. Promotes Cardiovascular Health

According to the Swim Strong Foundation, swimming for 30 minutes per day can reduce coronary heart disease (CHD) by 30 to 40 percent in women. And, men can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 10 percent by swimming the breaststroke for 30 minutes three times per week, which burns an estimated 900 calories.

Regular aerobic exercise, such as swimming, reduces blood pressure and helps to raise good cholesterol levels (HDLs). An increase of 1 percent in HDL cholesterol reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 3.5 percent. If you have a medical condition, particularly a heart condition, it’s always best to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program or activity. However, if your healthcare provider says it’s safe for you to swim, the benefits to your cardiovascular health are significant.

5. Provides Socialization Opportunities

Senior swimming programs or group water exercise classes provide opportunities for seniors to socialize and meet new people. One study found that participating in group exercise contributes to balanced health among older adults, providing a sense of community and social connectedness that can help to reduce feelings of social isolation and depression. Because it’s easier for seniors with conditions such as arthritis to participate in swimming compared to other exercises, older adults may be more likely to stick with group swimming lessons compared to high-impact exercises to achieve long-term health benefits.

6. Improves Sleep

A 2009 study found that 50% of older adults say they have difficulty sleeping, and poor sleep leads to an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. Another study found that aerobic exercise, such as swimming, improves self-reported sleep and quality of life among older adults.

Because swimming is a demanding exercise that burns a lot of calories and works all the major muscle groups, older adults will feel physically tired after a swim. Many people also say that swimming leaves them feeling relaxed, which is also a necessary ingredient for a good night’s sleep.

Because swimming is a good way to relax the body and the mind, it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, promoting overall well-being and boosting mental health. Combined with the social benefits of participating in group exercises and activities, swimming is an effective activity to promote overall health and well-being, benefiting both mental and physical health.

 

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