Being in this industry for the past 15 years, I see many families looking to purchase pools for their children or grandchildren to enjoy. They do not have the slightest clue that this pool of water in their backyard could potentially save their lives through the many tremendous health benefits it provides. I’ve long believed in the healing, healthy power of water, but I decided I should do some research so I could be better equipped, as a retailer, to explain its clinical, scientific benefits to customers I meet in the store. After all, as specialty retailers, we need to distinguish ourselves as true experts in the field — especially if we are going to survive against big box and online retailers.
When I first began researching the health benefits of swimming, I was blown away by the amount of information I found. Some of the best work has been done in the U.K. For example, an independent team of U.K. researchers published a study called “The Health & Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming,” which concluded swimming provides a 28 percent lower risk of mortality overall and a 41 percent lower risk of mortality related to heart disease and stroke. The U.K. is so passionate about swimming that they are encouraging healthcare providers to prescribe swimming to patients, where applicable. The benefits of this could potentially save their government an estimated $1 billion in healthcare costs.
More findings: Water-based exercises provide a much more effective, efficient workout for our bodies than land-based exercises with no strain on your joints and muscles. When we swim we are stretching our arms, legs and spine; it is truly the best overall workout for the body.
The water also helps with swelling of the ankles and feet and prevents swimmers from overheating, which makes it an ideal option for women going through pregnancy. Did I mention it also helps with back issues?
FOR THE BODY AND MIND
Every year, medical science points more urgently to stress relief as an important part of a healthy life. When slicing through the water, stroke after stroke, paying close attention to swimming techniques and breathing, swimming can actually be a form of meditation. It allows for more oxygen to flow to your muscles while forcing you to regulate your breathing. Swimming triggers the production of ANP, which is a stress-reducing hormone that helps control the brain’s response to stress and anxiety.
RELATED: The Healing Power of Swimming
Did you know chronic stress can lead to brain cell degeneration? Not to worry — you can regenerate these brain cells through a process called hippocampal neurogenesis. Swimming will increase the size of the hippocampus, which shrinks due to depression; it also affects the region of the brain involving learning and memory. When our bodies are submerged in water, it dulls the amount of sensory information that encompasses our brain on a daily basis, helping us evoke feelings of calm. This can lead to less anxiety and a better night’s sleep! As Lizette Borreli of the Medical Daily writes, “The act of swimming can provide brain benefits on a molecular and behavioral level by affecting neurotransmitters that influence mood and stress-reducing hormones.”
In addition, a study in the U.K. with 4,000 participants found that swimming can produce up to a 30 percent improvement in self-worth; three quarters of those in the study felt the water-based activities helped relieve tension and 68 percent said the water itself made them happier! A psychotherapist in California, Moby Coquillard, is so convinced swimming aids in the healing of depression that he prescribes it to his patients. “It’s something they can take in lieu of pills,” he states.
SWIMMING AS MEDICINE
Swimming has also been linked to defeating the body’s inflammatory response, which is a major cause of heart disease. It is proven to lower blood pressure while strengthening the heart. Studies show 30 minutes of swimming a day lowers coronary heart disease in women by up to 40 percent; this includes stroke, insulin resistance, altered lipid trafficking, muscle fiber alteration and ectopic fat storage, which leads to cardiovascular disease, dementia, certain forms of cancer (breast, bowel and womb), osteoporosis, obesity and Type II Diabetes. Your HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) levels rise naturally when you are a swimmer.
Worried the water is too cold? Swimming in cold water can actually help boost your immune system (your body sees the cold water as an attack on itself) while also increasing your libido (increases testosterone and estrogen) and burning more calories (the heart must beat faster and work harder to keep your body warm).
In a recent study conducted by Dr. Howard Carter of the University of Western Australia, participants were immersed in water while the blood flow was measured. Researchers found the blood flow to middle cerebral arteries increased by 14 percent while blood flow to posterior cerebral arteries increased by 9 percent, which is more proof that not only will swimming help your vascular health — it also helps improve cognitive function. This boost in blood flow also helps improve mood and clarity.
Those who are at risk for falling, which is a much larger group than is generally understood, find swimming helps create a safe zone for balance training. A study in 2014 at the University of Western Sydney showed swimmers had a significantly lower risk of falling (up to 33 percent) than those participants who were runners or golfers. Even those who do fall often report no broken bones because of improved bone strength from swimming.
The overall comprehensiveness of swimming is what helps with stability in the long run. This is especially good news for those who have knee and hip problems. Most people over 65 lose some of their walking/standing stability and their core strength — swimming helps to prevent that! Swimming is one way elder citizens can enhance their quality of life and continue to function independently for a longer period of time.
There are so many powerful, proven health benefits that come from swimming that it was impossible to list them all in one article. I didn’t even mention the most popular and obvious health benefit of all: It’s great for those looking to shed some pounds and get in shape. If you are having a hard time carrying your body weight, swimming is the exercise of choice! It’s easy on your joints, burns up the calories and fat and turns the body into a lean, attractive machine.
I hope the information in this article will help other swimming pool store retailers became experts on the benefits of swimming. Let’s spread the word!