The sun is beating down, the weather’s perfect; it’s time to get into the water! Every summer, hundreds of thousands of people head out to the beaches, public swimming pools, lakes, streams and rivers. There are endless water activities to participate in; water skiing, jet skiing, boating, sailing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and of course, the oldest one of the them all, swimming.
Swimming has been around since the beginning of time. It was something our ancestors did for necessity, not pleasure or exercise. They may have had a need to learn the act of swimming to escape from predators and conquerors, to hunt down food, or to move belongings and their selves from one site to another. In fact, history has it that Plato once stated, that anyone who could not swim lacked a proper education. Times have changed. Today we swim, almost exclusively, for pleasure, competition or exercise.
The first mention of swimming in competition dates back over 2000 years ago to the Japanese culture. In the Western world, the first swim races were held in the sports clubs of England in the 1830’s. In 1875, Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to ever swim across the English Channel.
The year was 1896 that swimming finally became an Olympic sport for men. There were two competitions, the 100 meter and the 1500 meter free style swim in open water. Since then, the backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly and individual medley have also become part of the Olympic swimming events.
Women were excluded in the swimming events for sixteen years due to their perceived frailness. However, they burst onto the scene at the 1912 Olympics and have never looked back.
Swimming, as exercise, is a fantastic way to lose weight, get in shape and stay fit. It has the benefits of working out the cardiovascular system without the forceful impact that say, running, would have on the body’s joints. It is a great strength building activity for both upper and lower body; if you have ever seen a professional swimmer you will note the strong and broad physique of the upper body.
Each different swimming stroke works separate muscle groups. The most commonly worked out muscles, with any of the various strokes, though, are the abdominals, biceps, triceps, gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps, basically, all the major muscle groups of the body!
For the elderly population, pregnant mothers, and individuals with injuries, swimming may be one of the only forms of exercise the doctor will prescribe. It lessens the likelihood of bone, joint and muscle injury, it increases cardiovascular fitness and wouldn’t you know it – it’s fun! Many fitness centers offer senior group swim classes; others have classes specifically for expectant mothers. Physical therapists sometimes have a heated therapeutic pool on site for rehabilitation purposes. There are also teams for water polo, synchronized swimming and swim competitions on local, regional, national and international levels.
Although every individual has a sport they favor, swimming is a fun and easy way to get in shape and stay fit. There is hardly any equipment needed, just a suit and some water! So, pack your things, head out to the pool or beach and give your swimming muscles a workout!