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The mental and physical health benefits of swimming

This low-impact activity provides a full-body workout

A little girl holds a hand as she swims underwater
A little girl holds a hand as she swims underwater

Living in a country surrounded by water, it’s no surprise that Australians love to swim – in fact, it’s our most popular sport. As well as being fun and enjoyable, the low-impact activity provides a full-body workout and is a great way to keep fit, stay healthy and socialise. Plus, if swimming in the ocean is your thing – it’s free!

What are the health benefits of swimming?

Personal trainer and health and wellness coach Kristy Curtis rates swimming for being gentle on the body.

“Swimming is popular with people who are carrying injuries,” she says. “It can really take the stress off the joints.”

The act of moving your body against the resistance of water, no matter what stroke you’re swimming, has a range of other health benefits including:

  • Keeping your heart rate up and lowering blood pressure

  • Boosting lung health

  • Building endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness

  • Helping with weight management

  • Working nearly all of your muscles, toning and strengthening them.

Related: Vitamin Sea: Surprising health benefits of the ocean

When will I see the benefits of swimming?

Physical changes are usually noticeable anywhere from eight to 12 weeks. However, Kristy stresses that like with any fitness plan, consistency is key, meaning physical results depend on how intensely and how often you’re swimming.

“Even 10 minutes a day of structured activity, such as swimming, is better than nothing,” she says.

A senior woman wearing a swimming cap and goggles laughs with her eyes shut as she floats in the middle of ocean baths

The mental benefits of swimming

Alongside the fun, feel-good factor, swimming is great for the mind, with the act of simply being in water linked to a host of mental pluses such as relaxation and lowered stress.

That’s especially true if you’re swimming in the ocean because exercising in natural environments is great for mental health. As well as reduced stress and a boost of the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin, ocean swims may also benefit skin health and bring hay fever relief.

Related: The importance of happiness chemicals

Can everyone learn to swim?

Learning to swim isn’t just good for your health, it’s important for your overall safety. The Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association recommends that kids start lessons from just four months of age – something that can be done during a group class or a series of private lessons.

“Beginners’ classes will teach the fundamentals and the proper technique,” says Kristy. “A teacher will go through and assess your technique, make recommendations and give you skills and drills to practise in your own time.”

Because it’s low impact, swimming is safe for most people’s health – no matter their experience – and is an activity that can be done from childhood right up until old age. If you have asthma, however, or suffer from any other type of respiratory problems, you should discuss the risks of swimming laps with your doctor before getting in the pool.

Whether you’re new to exercise or training for a half marathon, check out The Check Up’s dedicated fitness section for more expert tips to help you achieve your goals.

Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.

About Kristy Curtis

Kristy Curtis is one of Australia and Asia’s leading wellness experts. She discovered her passion for fitness at a young age and has since transformed that passion into a career, with a successful personal training business and as a TV presenter. Kristy strongly believes while there are some things in life you can’t control, you can take ownership and responsibility of your health through eating good food, thinking positively and keeping your body moving. Every night before bed, Kristy completes a sudoku puzzle.