The benefits of swimming for all ages and stages
From the pool to the ocean, this low-cost, low-impact exercise is great for almost everyone. Here are the benefits of the different types.
Whether we’re jumping in creeks, braving our wild oceans or following the long black line in an indoor pool, many Australians embrace swimming from an early age. Putting on your swimmers and having a dip is a national pastime, and a rite of passage for Aussie children.
More than 80% of Aussies live within walking or driving distance of the coast and with roughly 1,077 public aquatic facilities countrywide, it’s hardly surprising Australia’s most successful Olympic sport is in the pool.
But you don’t need an Olympic medal to take the plunge. A recent study released by Swim England shows that the unique benefits of water make it the ideal place for people of all ages and fitness levels to exercise. And the best news is there are lots of health benefits to swimming.
According to the study, regular swimming helps you stay mentally and physically fit, live longer, and sleep better. It’s a whole-body activity, which increases your metabolism and tones your muscles - not to mention helping you burn calories. Swimming can also help kids develop physical, mental and social skills, and is the go-to extracurricular activity in Australia.
Sports and exercise physiotherapist Clare Brown often ‘prescribes’ it to her patients as part of their recovery program. “Swimming aids cardiovascular (heart) fitness, muscle strengthening, spinal mobility and coordination,” she says.
But it’s not just for the injured. Clare highly recommends swimming as a regular physical activity. “It increases endorphins, boosts your mood and alleviates stress,” she adds.
If you’re a little nervous about jumping in the pool after a long break, Clare recommends one-on-one coaching lessons to improve your confidence and technique.
Swimming can be a life-long fitness activity for almost everyone, including babies, seniors, pregnant women and people with physical or mental disabilities. This form of exercise is unlike any other and there are a few different ways you can dip your toes in the water.
Recreational swimming and learning to swim
Local community pools offer lessons to children from around six months old to adults of any age. There are also stroke correction classes, pool fitness classes, intensive school holiday programs and separate areas for laps and recreational swimming.
Benefits: A cost-effective, low-impact activity, this option gives the body and mind an all-over workout. Great for kids’ physical and cognitive skills and a confidence booster in the water.
Suitable for older kids and adults, squads are designed for more advanced swimmers who are able to swim 2km or more.
Benefits: Squads help improve your fitness, your technique and maintain social connections. They can provide challenging sets for tri-athletes and long-distance swimmers. You’ll also get the benefits of group fitness, like social contact and motivation.
If you’re lucky enough to live near an ocean pool, winter swim squads are an enjoyable way to get in the water. Clubs hold events over varying distances, in all strokes ranging from freestyle to medley.
Benefits: Family-oriented, this social competition is a whole-body exercise no matter what your level or age. Plus, you get the added benefit of exposure to salt water which can have wound-healing properties as well as help certain skin conditions.
Competitive swimming (for all ages)
Join a club through Swimming Australia and train a few times a week. Open to kids and adults, you can compete in long and short distances. Masters Swimming Australia offers competitive swimming in both pools and open water for people aged 18+.
Benefits: The competitive scene is a more vigorous workout. You’ll achieve personal goals as well as develop endurance skills.
Surf Live Saving Australia – Nippers, Surf Life Saving and Salties
Nippers is a fun way for kids aged five to 14 to develop beach-safety skills. Beyond Nippers, you can become a surf lifesaver, combining voluntary lifeguard services and competitive surf sport. There are health and wellbeing programs for older Australians, too, including the Salties – which aims to build physical fitness and social connections.
Benefits: Surf Life Saving improves cardiovascular fitness and challenges endurance. It’s a sociable and worthwhile way to give back to the community. And the Nippers program teaches children how to navigate the unpredictable nature of the ocean, like what to do if you’re caught in a rip or dangerous waves.
Ocean swimmers find great physical and mental comfort in the open water so if the ocean is calling you, there are plenty of clubs and swim groups to join.
Benefits: You’ll become fitter and more confident in the ocean and build up your endurance levels. You’ll also benefit from the meditative effects of exercising in nature, which can calm the mind and reduce stress significantly.
Remember any amount of swimming is good for you. Ocean or pool, the water is uniquely placed to support your health and wellbeing throughout your entire life.
If you're keen to start swimming, call HCF on 13 13 34 to find out about our HCF’s extras policies cover. You may be able to claim for lessons run by swim schools that are ASSA members, AUSTSWIM (Gold and Silver level) or Swim Australia swim centres. Squad training or recreational swimming isn’t covered, and you'll need to be on an eligible extras product for at least 2 months.
Words by Samantha Yetzes
First published December 2020
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