As people grow older their physical health becomes more of a concern, but often their bodies are not as resilient as they once were. Swimming presents a good option for elderly who want to remain fit without traumatizing their joints or exacerbating old injuries.
Swimming Offers Low Impact Cardio Exercise
Swimming allows more agility and the ability to stretch farther than in some other land-based exercises. Furthermore, when compared to other cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, swimming puts minimal impact on the skeletal system, muscles and aging joints. While swimming, joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible, lung volume increases, the heart is strengthened, and calories are burned as effectively as in other cardiovascular exercises.
Risk of Falling is Minimal
Falls are a great risk for older adults, and can cause broken bones, head trauma and other severe injuries. Even less serious falls can lower an elderly person’s mobility while they are recovering, which can lead to other health problems. Among adults ages 65 and older, one in three experience a fall yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Older adults are far less likely to fall during swimming exercises than when they engage in other forms of exercise. A University of Western Sydney study of men over 70 years of age found men who swam were 33 percent less likely to fall compared with men who did not swim. Men who engaged in non-water sports were no less likely to fall.
“Unlike [with] land-based sports, swimmers are required to create their own base of support and at the same time, to produce a coordinated movement of both upper and lower extremities,” said study author Dafna Merom, an associate professor of physical activity and health.
The swimmers also performed better on a test of “postural sway,” compared with the average of all men in the study. Postural sway assesses standing balance, where a person stands as still as possible for 30 seconds, and researchers measure the subject’s body movement, at the waist level, from the center position.
Additional Health Benefits of Swimming
Swimming can help people with chronic illnesses, and has positive effects on arthritis, asthma, heart disease and diabetes. Pool workouts can also help the body relax, which can assist in decreasing anxiety and depression.