Running and cycling are great complimentary cardiovascular workouts. It goes without saying that we love swimming, but there is a lot to be said for incorporating running or swimming into your workout, depending on what you’re hoping to achieve.
If you’re looking for more advice, take a look at our guide for our top pros and cons of running vs swimming.
Benefits of Swimming
Swimming is the ideal form of exercise if you’re looking for something that’ll constantly keep you active while working out your entire body. It’s a great type of cardio that enhances your fat burning by utilising muscles all over your body, helping you lose weight (as long as you eat properly before and after your swim) and generally improves your fitness as it builds up your endurance and lung capacity.
Here are some benefits that swimming has for your physical wellbeing:
- Swimming keeps your heart rate up whilst taking the impact stress off of your body; which makes it the perfect exercise for pregnant women, people with mobility problems, and those who just wish to protect their joints.
- It builds your endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
- Your muscles are more likely to be stronger, lengthen and become more flexible.
- It helps you to maintain a healthy heart and lungs.
- Swimming uses nearly all of the muscles in your body, so provides a fantastic full body workout.
- Your agility is improved, meaning you’ll see a positive change in your coordination, balance and posture. In one study by the American Journal of Epidemiology, they found that seniors who swim have a 33% less chance of falling than those who don’t do any water exercise.
- It’s an effective way to relieve stress – swimming is a great way to loosen up your body and soothe your mind. Being immersed in water while swimming allows you to focus on the regular rhythm of your strokes which has a relaxing and almost meditative effect on the mind.
- Swimming releases endorphins – an early morning swim can kick your day off to a great start as it releases the natural, feel-good hormones that lead us to experience a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing. You’ll be feeling positive and motivated until lunchtime.
- Lowers depression and anxiety – Research commissioned by Swim England found that swimming has significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety or depression for 1.4 million adults in Britain.
What are the disadvantages of swimming?
We love swimming and all of the health benefits it can provide but we know it might not be right for everyone.
Here are some things to take into consideration if you’re thinking of taking up swimming:
- Swimmer’s ear – As is the case with most types of exercise there is always a unique potential injury or other problems that arise, and for swimming, this might be one of your biggest concerns. Swimmers ear is an infection on the outer canal of the ear, which is caused by residual water left over from swimming and allows for bacteria to grow. If you’re concerned that this might be a problem for you, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent swimmer’s ear.
- Chlorine – Chemicals really do a number on the body and chlorine, unfortunately, is no different (and is a little difficult to avoid). Continuous exposure to chlorine isn’t great for your skin and hair, so if this is a major concern you may want to rethink swimming as an exercise. If you’re concerned about the impact of chlorine on your hair and skin, make sure to take some preventative steps to reduce exposure.
- Asthma risk – There have been some studies that have found a link between chlorinated pool exposure and allergic diseases among adolescents.
- Drowning – Depending on age and safety of swimming space, there can be some concern of drowning as a risk. To help prevent an accident or drowning incident, make sure to practice, and start with someone else in the water, perhaps take a look at the perfect swimming workout for beginners to start planning your pool domination. If swimming with young children, make sure to follow these steps to help children stay safe while swimming.
What benefits do you get from running?
Running is also a fantastic form of cardio and, for some, comes with greater flexibility than swimming as you can do it anytime, anywhere. Widely, the benefits of types of cardiovascular exercise are very similar and many differences are dependent on your weight, the speed in which you swim/run and the techniques you use.
Just like swimming, running has many benefits for your body and mental health, a few include:
- Decreasing symptoms of depression – Multiple studies have concluded that regular exercise, primarily jogging or fast-paced walking reduces the symptoms of clinical depression.
- Reduces anxiety – running can reduce anxiety symptoms and help you relax, according to research. The chemicals released during and after running can help people that experience anxiety feel calmer. They don’t call it ‘runners high’ for nothing!
- Boosting brain power – Cardiovascular exercise like running can create new brain cells and improve your overall brain performance. A good run increases levels of cortisol in the body believed to help with decision-making, better thinking and learning.
- Weight loss – If weight loss is your primary goal, then running has an advantage over other activities; according to MayoClinic.com, it burns more calories per unit of time than any other type of exercise — upward of 1,000 calories per hour for some people.
- Reduced Risk for Disease – A study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology found that runners decreased their risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol. These benefits are a given, knowing that running can help keep weight off, and strengthens the lungs and the heart.
- Healthy joints – Running is a great way to improve your joint and bone health. A study taken at the University of Missouri found that not only does it decrease the risk of osteoarthritis, but regular running can also help you reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
What are the disadvantages of jogging?
- Low Testosterone – a study on long-distance male runners has shown that this degree of physical exertion has been proven to lower your testosterone levels. The lack of this hormone can be responsible for slow muscle recovery and lack of energy.
- Runner’s knee – One of the most common running concerns is runner’s knee. This injury can cause pain right behind and around the knee cap. In addition to this, if exercise is pursued, runner’s knees can wear down cartilage, reducing your body’s natural shock absorption and weakening two of your key joints.
- Heart problems – About 25% of the population could be at risk of a condition known as runner’s cardiomyopathy. For these people, the right atrium and right ventricle dilate and there are elevations of blood troponins and B-type natriuretic peptide, suggesting there is a temporary injury to these chambers at the end of a marathon. This is due to the overuse of these thinner chambers while the individual is running a marathon.
Whether swimming or running is better for your health is overall dependent on you and what you prefer, what you enjoy and feel most comfortable doing. If you have any health problems or concerns, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new form of exercise.