5 Reasons to Continue Swimming as a Lifelong Sport

Photo Courtesy: US Masters Swimming

By Lianne McCluskey, Swimming World College Intern.

Many collegiate swimmers look at the end of their college swimming eligibility as the beginning of “swammer” status; however, this does not have to be the case. U.S. Masters Swimming has referred to swimming as “the magic pill” for a reason – regardless of an individual’s athletic ability, a person can pick up the sport at any time in their life.

Maybe you are burned out and don’t want to reek of chlorine anymore or can’t bear the thought of comparing yourself to what you were once able to accomplish as a collegiate swimmer. Whether you decide to get back in the water tomorrow or ten years from now, you should consider diving back in again at some point in your life due to these five substantive reasons:

1. Low-Impact on Muscles and Bones


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike sports on land, the body is free from gravity when submerged in water. According to research conducted by Hirofumi Tanaka, a professor of kinesiology and director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Lab at the University of Texas, swimming is the ideal exercise for people with osteoarthritis for whom weight-bearing exercise can be excruciatingly painful. The coolness and buoyancy of water is also appealing to people who are overweight or obese, as load-bearing aerobic exercises can be too uncomfortable to adjust to. This does not mean that swimming is easy – studies have shown that because water is more dense than air, moving through water puts more external pressure on your limbs than out-of-water training. Pressure doesn’t collect in your knees, hips or the other places that bear most of the burden when you exercise with gravity. It’s a full body workout – the muscles in the upper body working with the lower body rather than one or the other.

2. Improves the Cardiovascular System

Lower Blood Pressure

Photo Courtesy: Medical News Today

Swimming decreases arterial stiffness, which is a risk factor for heart disease. More of Tanaka’s research has linked swim training with lower blood pressure among people with hypertension. Studies also show that swimming reduces bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol.

3. Slows Down the Aging Process

Maine Masters Swimming

Photo Courtesy: Reed Lowden

Generally, exercise has proven to be important in keeping an aging population healthy and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Swimming can be learned at any age, although it may not be as easy as it would be as a toddler. Masters Swimming is an organization that has made it accessible for athletes of all ages to find success in reaching their goals. Current membership includes over 42,000 individuals ranging from age 18 to over 100 years of age.

4. Boosts Mental Health

ella eastin, stanford, ncaa swimming championships

Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

The endorphins produced from swimming give you a natural high – they trigger a positive feeling in the body and act as an analgesic, which diminishes the body’s perception of pain. They also can act as sedatives. Endorphins are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors that endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with pain medicines such as morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body’s natural endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence. With this knowledge, swimming has been proven to reduce stress, increase mental toughness, improve problem solving skills and memory.

5. It’s fun!

Photo Courtesy: Instagram, @mastersswimming

The swimming community is a tight-knit group of people who are passionate about being in the water. Although it may seem like an individual sport, the camaraderie is uniting and supportive no matter where an individual’s abilities lie. While about half of people who try a new exercise program give up within a few months, Tanka’s research has found that people who take up swimming are more likely to stick with it. All different levels of swimmers practice at the same time, and workouts are flexible – swimmers can adjust the workout depending on how they are feeling or how hard they want to push themselves.

All research was conducted by the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. Carol Gorden

    Good advice! All water exercises help your joints as you age.

  2. avatar

    Great Advice-Will seriously consider adding to my exercise program.

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