Swimming is a beloved sport, exercise and recreational pastime for many people and a plethora of reasons, but few experiences can beat the sensation of gliding buoyantly through the water. For cardio-obsessed athletes, swimming improves strength and stamina while simultaneously increasing lung capacity. For elders or those in physical rehabilitation, swimming or standing exercises done in water offer a way to strengthen sustainably with no forceful impact on bones, joints and muscles. For children, learning how to swim allows for higher safety around water, higher confidence in life and more opportunities for fun. Swimming as a competitive sport can build speed, grace, agility, stamina, strength, balance, team spirit, and more, all in a low-impact environment. Each of the four classic swim strokes works muscles throughout the body that are often under-utilized in daily life.
According to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Physiology, submersion in water up to heart-level increased blood flow to the brain by 14%. The study findings suggest that water has a different effect than land on heart and brain function. An article in USA Swimming sites several more studies that point to actual chest expansion in avid swimmers and subsequent addition of alveoli in the lungs, leading to an ability to process more oxygen. These benefits are completely unique to swimming, and as more oxygen is released into the blood, endorphin levels rise. As an avid swimmer, I can attest to the feel-good chemicals released during swimming, and that the unique sounds of breath releasing and limbs moving rhythmically underwater is quite pleasant.
Swimming for Every Level
As with the other edifying exercises detailed in this three-part series, biking and hiking, the key to keeping the commitment strong is in finding your own dynamic edge between challenge and comfort. Swimming can also be engaged at any level, from recreational swim, to aqua-aerobics, diving, lap swim, recreational or competitive swim teams for youth and masters swim teams for adults.
Local Recreational Teams
Benicia’s recreational swim team, Benicia Stingrays, closes out its season for swimmers ages 4-18 this month with the League Meet on August 6. The California Maritime Academy in Vallejo has a masters swim team that anyone ages 18 and over can join. The James Lemos Pool is open all summer for recreation and lap swim. 30 swim passes can be purchased in advance and daily passes can be used for any type of swim.
Check out other public pools near Benicia: