THE BENEFITS OF SWIMMING
In another article, we go over how aquatic training (aquatic exercises) other than swimming can lower your blood pressure.
Swimming can also greatly improve your health. Here are just a few of the benefits of swimming:
- It can help you lose weight
- You can improve the health and function of your lungs and heart
- It reduces your body fat
- Compared to land-based exercises, swimming can be gentler on your joints
- It increases healthy, lean, muscle mass
But does this popular form of exercise lower your blood pressure?
HOW SWIMMING AFFECTS YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE*
SUCCESSFUL TREATMENTS USED IN RESEARCH
While it appears that swimming may not lower your blood pressure, some studies suggest the opposite in very specific groups of people.
For instance, consider the outline proposed by research below. It helped people some peoples’ systolic blood pressure by about 9 mm Hg.
Total time: 12 weeks.
Type of exercise: group-based swimming led by an instructor as follows.
- For the first few weeks, start off by swimming continuously (non-stop) for 15 to 20 minutes a day.
- Do this for 3 to 4 days a week.
- Begin at a low intensity.
- Your target heart rate should be around 60% of your maximal heart rate.
- As you get stronger and faster, increase the time you swim continuously to 40 to 45 minutes a day.
- Keep swimming for 3 to 4 days a week.
- Increase your intensity to a moderate level.
- Your target heart rate should be around 70% to 75% of your maximal heart rate.
MAXIMUM AND TARGET HEART RATE FOR SWIMMERS
The maximum heart rate for swimmers is about 10 to 13 beats per minute lower than runners. So you need to lower the maximum heart rate found here by about 13 beats per minute prior to calculating your target heart rate.
For example, let’s say your maximum heart rate is 200 beats per minute (bpm) as provided in the link above.
This means that, in the water, your maximum heart rate will be about 200 – 13 = 187 beats per minute.
Let’s presume you’re aiming for 75% of your maximum heart rate. Multiply 0.75 by 187 to get your target heart rate in the water:
187 x 0.75 = 140.
So your target heart rate, at 75% of your maximum rate in the water, is 140 beats per minute.
EVEN MORE SUCCESSFUL TREATMENTS USED IN RESEARCH
In addition to the treatment routine discussed above, let’s go over three additional swim plans used during research. All of them lowered some peoples’ blood pressure.
- Find a swim instructor to help coach you during this exercise
- Using the front crawl technique, swim in a supervised setting
- Do so for 60 minutes at a time
- Ensure you swim at 60% of your maximum heart rate
- Swim like this for 3 days per week (every other day)
- Follow this plan for 10 weeks straight
People who followed this swim routine lowered their systolic blood pressure after 10 weeks.
- Use the front crawl technique
- Swim at a moderate-intensity for 1 hour straight.
- Try to swim as far as you can without stopping.
- Swim like this 3 times a week (about every other day)
- Do so for 15 weeks straight
People who followed this swim routine lowered their systolic blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg after 15 weeks of swimming.
- Use the front crawl technique to swim.
- Each swim session should last about 15 to 25 minutes; with 3 to 5 minutes of actual swimming.
- Each swim session consists of the following cycle:
- Swim at a high intensity for 30 seconds. In other words, swim as fast as you possibly can.
- Rest for 2 minutes thereafter.
- Perform 3 swim sessions a week (about every other day) with 6 to 10 cycles per session:
- For the first 6 weeks of swimming, swim 6 cycles per session
- For weeks 7 through 12, swim 8 cycles per session
- For the last 3 weeks of swimming, swim 10 cycles per session
People who followed this swim routine lowered their systolic blood pressure by about 6 mm Hg after 15 weeks of swimming.
NOTE: SWIMMING MIGHT RAISE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE!
Multiple studies have shown that swimming might raise a person’s blood pressure over time. It’s unclear why this may be the case.
However, the evidence for this is murky and scientists aren’t even sure if these findings are accidental or not.
But if you’re going to be extra cautious, then you should note that swimming might raise the blood pressure in the following groups of people:
- Women who are 50 to 70 years old
- People with mild to moderate high blood pressure, who are about 30 to 50 years old
None reported. Injuries are possible.
Non-elite, non-competitive swimmers. Most were about 25 to 70 years old. Many had various levels of elevated and high blood pressure (hypertension). This includes the former term “prehypertension”.
TYPES OF STUDIES
Clinical trials. Many were randomized. Most lasted around 2 to 3 months. Control groups included those that didn’t exercise as well as those that performed other forms of exercise, such as walking.
There’s a lack of high quality data on this topic. As a result, scientists are uncertain about these findings. Additional studies are necessary.
For references, please click here.