The Benefits of Swimming for Older People

Benefits of Swimming for Older People

Regular swimming is a great workout for everyone but particularly middle-aged and older adults. There are several reasons for this. It’s low impact, working every muscle group in the body but with a low risk for injury. This makes it a fun, effective way to stay in shape, especially as you age. 

While it’s common for older people to have conditions such as arthritis, swimming is an easier way for them to exercise without creating issues. It will often become an exercise that you want to stick with over the years, especially considering the many health and social benefits of swimming regularly.

Swimming improves heart health. Regular swimming strengthens the heart and overall cardiovascular health. It also lowers blood pressure and increases circulation throughout the body. This also contributes to reducing the risks of heart and lung disease. You’ll see increased endurance. Of course, if you’re unsure if a regular swimming program is safe for you due to a heart condition, consult with your physician beforehand.

Swimming is gentle on all of the body joints. Swimming doesn’t put any strain on the joints. You are basically weightless while in the water, so it makes it easier to move in the water without hurting yourself. With the lessened gravity pressure it’s easier to move and exercise, which is particularly beneficial for those with arthritis or other joint problems.

Flexibility and stability should improve from regular swimming. As a full body workout, swimming works all the major muscle groups. Exercising in the water strengthens muscles, but it also builds them. You will notice development in your core muscles, legs and upper body, as well as a reduction in stiffness and joint and muscle pain. As you develop your skills in the water, you will see improvements in posture and stability. This can help decrease the risk of falling when you are out of the water – it’s good for a senior to have a medical alert smartwatch, but it’s even better to have a well coordinated body as long as you can. 

Not only is  exercise in the water not a detriment, but it actually strengthens muscles throughout the body – perfect for older adults. The simple process of walking or swimming through the water provides resistance to muscles. This can create and build tone muscles, and without the risk of strained or pulled muscles.

Swimming lowers the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that affects many people over the age of fifty. Osteoporosis can lead to fractures, so it’s valuable to keep this deterioration at bay. Regular swimming improves bone mineral density – the key to preventing osteoporosis – and it’s a simple, low-impact way of doing it.

Range of motion is an overlooked physical improvement that also is developed through swimming. Often, after working out in a gym or with weights, older adults may feel pain from having over-extended the reach of limbs or torso. Swimming avoids much of this over-extension  because there’s no pressure on any point of the body. This allows you to exercise more comfortably while developing muscle strength and range of motion.

If all this workout talk is making you sleepy, be assured that swimming induces a better quality of sleep. The National Institute on Aging is concerned that people over 65 often experience sleep problems such as insomnia, whether from medications, medical issues and pain or simply from a less active lifestyle. Getting good sleep is important to living a happy, productive life, and fortunately swimming can leave you tired enough to fall asleep more easily. As a bonus, the soothing relaxation inherent in non-competitive swimming can help with depression and anxiety also, offering a better state of mind for a better night of sleep.

It’s not all in the mind: being in the water and exercising or simply swimming stimulates blood flow to the brain and increases overall circulation. This increased blood flow can bolster overall mood, concentration and cognitive function. It also improves memory. These important benefits are the reason why children still developing should swim regularly and start early in life (from even as young as one year of age). It’s never too late to reap these benefits, since they work the same for middle-aged and older people. Studies have shown that those who swim regularly have improved attention and cognition compared with their peers. 

Improved mental wellbeing typically results from any type of exercise because of the release of endorphins and serotonin. This naturally releases stress by reducing the body’s cortisol hormones. This improves overall mental health and function. Swimming is no exception here, with the added benefit of low impact and low risk of injury in older people. Let’s face it: swimming is one of the easiest and most fun ways to exercise.

The social potential of swimming is abundant also. Swimming with others can reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and alleviate potential depression. Participating in a water exercise class is a great way to meet new people and develop new friendships all while exercising. That’s a win-win.

Swimming offers so many benefits for middle-aged and older people, from active but low-impact exercise to improved physical and mental function. All within a relaxing environment that helps to ease aching joints while building and toning muscles. That’s a pretty big result from simply getting into the pool!