A Look at the Health Benefits of Swimming

Exercise is one of the key ingredients to leading a healthy life. In addition to eating healthier and more sensible foods, regularly visiting your doctor even when you are not sick for a routine physical and medical checkup, and managing your daily stresses, engaging in physical exercise can further enhance the health benefits of these activities. Unfortunately, when people think about physical exercise, they always think about the gym, pumping iron, running the treadmill or the stationary bike, or even doing some stretches. They forget that biking, swimming, and running can be as equally beneficial as doing exercises in the gym. In fact, experts agree that the many health benefits of swimming is already equivalent to several gym-based exercises.

Here’s why.

Swimming Helps Improve Oxygen Delivery

One of the many health benefits of swimming is in its ability to help enhance the delivery of oxygen to the different tissues of the body. Because the four limbs of the body are constantly moving and you have to regulate your breathing as well, swimming is one of the best forms of aerobic exercises. The constant limb action of trying to stay afloat and moving your body seamlessly in the water keeps your heart rate up without necessarily reaching an erratic and abnormal pace. An increased heart rate means your heart is pumping more blood and delivering more oxygen to the different tissues of the body. This also helps facilitate the removal of carbon dioxide and other by-products of cellular metabolic processes. The steady, healthy, increase in heart rate can help stimulate the heart to grow its muscle fibers. This improves overall cardiac functioning and efficiency. Over time, the heart no longer has to increase its rate of pumping because the strength of its contraction is already enough to deliver the much-needed oxygen. This is why athletes usually have slower heart rates than normal yet they are still able to meet their metabolic requirements.

Swimming Helps Improve Bone and Joint Health

Performing aerobic exercises in the gym is different from swimming as a form of aerobic exercise. Because of the buoyant force of water, the impact of the surface radiating across the entire length and width of the body is eliminated. The downward force exerted by your weight on the gym floor is also reduced. Technically, the buoyant force of the water is what is lifting your body. You feel much less weight in the water than you are on land. For example, studies show that if you are submerged up to your waist, your body is actually only supporting 50 percent of its own weight. Immerse your body some more up to the chest and your body is only supporting 25 to 35 percent of its own weight. Try immersing your body up to your neck and 90 percent of your body weight is actually being supported by the buoyant force of the water. This means you will feel 90 percent lighter. Because you are lighter, the impact on your bones and joints can be instantly felt. And with warm water, you can further loosen those stiff joints. This can greatly reduce the pain among people with arthritis and other bone and joint problems.

Swimming Helps Strengthen and Tone Muscles

Swimming requires you to propel yourself in the water against resistance. For every cubic inch that your body occupies, this is the same volume of water that you have to work against. In order for you to move from one end of the pool to the other, you need to stretch those muscles and work them against this resistance. It may not be as intense as pumping iron doing all those heavy weightlifting sessions but those are primarily intended for building muscles. Swimming strengthens the muscles making it more toned and in a constant state of partial contraction. This makes it very ready and very efficient. Swimming is an excellent form of resistance exercise

Swimming Helps Develop Flexibility

As a healthy person you would want to be able to move freely. And this means be able to use your joints in their full range of motion. Unlike gym-based exercises where only certain joints are worked at a time, swimming works every joint in your body to improve overall joint mobility and range of motion. This greatly helps in developing flexibility and agility.

Swimming can Aid in Weight Loss Efforts

Did you know that for every 10 minutes that you swim breaststroke you can actually burn as much as 60 calories? For backstroke, it’s 80 calories; freestyle, 100 calories; and butterfly stroke, 150 calories. Now if you are going to increase the intensity of your swimming, you can actually drive the rate of energy expenditure a lot faster. Coupled with sensible dietary habits, and you could be well on your way to a more fit body.

There are other health benefits of swimming. These benefits are all tied to its being an excellent aerobic exercise. So, if you want to lead a healthier life with less impact on your bones and joints, then swimming is an excellent choice.

Training for the First Marathon

The decision to go for the first marathon is exciting but can also be daunting. For most, getting to this point requires a lot of consideration, because it will take a lot of time and effort to be ready. A marathon is not something that one just resolves to do a week before the run, even if he/she is already fit. The way to a successful performance is to train properly, aiming for longer runs or intensifying the workout slowly to build strength and endurance. More than just preparing the body, the mental state is just as important before and during the run. Maintaining motivation and focus will be vital to stick to the training schedule and to simply keep going.

Many things are also considered as part of marathon preparation. These include proper nutrition, enough sleep, and even the right equipment. Getting a full medical check-up is also vital before the start of training will make sure that you are healthy enough for the training and the full marathon as well.

Here are also some general things to have in mind when preparing for the marathon:

  1. Listen To Your Body

For beginners, doing a marathon is already pushing the body enough. The training will also be tough, so make sure that you take great care to avoid ending up with an injury. If, while running, it doesn’t feel right or that it is too much for your body, take a break or get advice from a specialist. Once you get injured, you will be back to square one and you will need time to get back. After a workout, change into dry clothes and make sure you are always hydrated. Getting sick is also not fun or good when you have a running schedule to follow.

  1. Do Not Overtrain

When you start early enough, you have enough time to train slowly, increasing in intensity every week. Doing too much will put you at risk for injury and you might get too tired and lose motivation. Moreover, your body needs time to build strength and endurance, so do not force it. You will find yourself being able to run further as the weeks pass.

  1. Enjoy The Run

Whatever your reason is for doing a marathon, make sure that you are also having fun while doing so. This is very important to keep your motivation and will make all this time spent on training enjoyable as well.

  1. Invest In Good Equipment

You will be running a very long distance during your marathon, so you need shoes that can withstand all this strain. This is also important to keep yourself safe from getting injured. You can also have 2 pairs of running shoes during this time that you can alternate to avoid overuse. Make sure that you also replace them in time, after 500 miles or so. Breaking in the shoes before the marathon is also very important.

  1. Make A Good Plan

Giving yourself enough time to train will allow you to develop a good schedule and an easy progression until the date of the marathon. If you are a beginner, make sure you have even more time. Target around 2 to 3 runs weekly. You can also work with a trainer to help you design a good plan, or simply follow existing training models out there.

  1. Try Cross-Training

Cross-training can be a good addition to mix up your routine and help build up your body for the marathon. Try swimming, deep-water running or even cycling so you can improve deep breathing, develop running muscles, strengthen your cardiovascular system, or increase aerobic endurance.

  1. Run On The Treadmill At Home

Using that treadmill at home or at the gym will help you keep to your training schedule even when the weather is not great for outside running. Moreover, there are ways to vary the run through setting the incline or pace to make it more difficult and build resistance.

  1. Nutrition and Hydration

Your body should be supported by the right nutrition and enough water to have energy and fuel while working out. Your diet should have the right carbohydrates (like muesli or oatmeal) and good fats (omega-3s found in salmon and fish oil), accompanied by lots of water. A good breakfast in the mornings after training will help your body recover too.

  1. Sleep

Remember, when you are doing long runs, you are putting your body under immense strain and pressure. Your body will need enough time to recover afterward, so sometimes even 8 hours of sleep are not enough.

  1. Gain Support

Having the support of family and friends will help sustain you when your body is so tired and you just want to give up. They can either go running with you to keep you company or simply keep tabs during your training. Seeing them at the end of the finish line will also be great, and you can definitely share your achievement with them!

5 Reasons Why You Should Go To Meditation Class

Meditation was once upon a time reserved for Buddhist monks. However, it is not really limited to a specific religion or spiritual belief which is why slowly, it became more mainstream. Nowadays, ordinary people like you and me are able to discover and enjoy its many benefits.

I have, of course, heard of meditation before, but I didn’t really find a reason before to actually try it. Good friends of mine have begun to go regularly, though, and have invited me to join them on a relaxing meditation class in Bendigo. According to them, I could change my life by incorporating this into my routine.

In order to convince me, they gave me five simple reasons why I should try it out:

1. Your health will improve

Although this is not some exercise or diet, meditation could still contribute to better health, as proven by research. Practitioners lower their blood pressure and decrease their risk of heart disease and stroke. Other studies have also shown that chronic pain is lessened, as well as levels of stress in cancer sufferers. Those with fibromyalgia see reduced symptoms too.

Moreover, cortisol levels went down when one regularly goes for sessions. High levels of this hormone can actually make the immune system weaker and slow down the body’s natural healing process. Lastly, there have been studies that hinted that meditation can help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.

2. You can sleep better

By doing a 30-minute session can already help you sleep deeper, making you feel more refreshed and energized even if you had fewer hours of slumber. Additionally, those who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome might find relief in meditation.

You might also start to have more vivid dreams, and remember them better upon waking up.

3. You will feel less stressed.

There are many reasons why people try out meditation. One of the most popular reasons is to learn to detach from the stresses of life. Nowadays, with the constant stream of information, negative energy is all around. Moreover, smartphones mean that you never really leave work, increasing the pressure and blurring that line between personal time and work.

Not only is meditation well-known as a means to reduce stress, this is also backed up by research as being advantageous to all age groups. New research by Stanford University and UCLA explores how meditation and mindfulness techniques can help children reduce stress and anger. Even teenagers have been proven to see improvements in mood disorders and depression.

Practitioners report that not only do they feel more relaxed, but they are also able to handle themselves better in tense situations that would previously rattle them. They feel more aware of themselves as well, resulting in a sense of calm and wellbeing. This self-awareness can help you identify whatever negative patterns you have in your life and introduce a more positive one, further reducing stress and anxiety.

4. You can concentrate better

By learning to tune out external stimuli, you are actually improving your concentration. At the same time, you become more aware and able to keep focus much longer than before. In fact, researchers at Harvard Medical School have seen changes in the brain structure, specifically in areas linked to attention and processing of sensory input. Other research also showed increased ability in staying focused on tasks, faster reaction, and better psychomotor response.

Research at the University of Wisconsin has recently suggested that beyond improved attention, meditation changes how the body allocates mental resources.

5. You become more creative

Surprisingly, meditation triggers parts of the brain associated with creativity. There are ways of meditating that promote a synchronized left and right hemisphere of the brain. This is commonly seen as well in moments of inspiration or while doing something creative. In Taiwan, where a study was conducted to identify effects on creativity, IQ, attention and anxiety, researchers have found that creativity has seen the most improvement.

With such advantages, it was very difficult for me to decline their invitation. This is also because I have personally seen my friends enjoy these benefits themselves. From being a group of friends who struggled with life’s day-to-day struggles and lacked the energy except to complain, I could see them looking and feeling lighter.

I was encouraged and have decided to join them. For me, meditation is a form of mental exercise. In the same way I went to the gym to work out my body, I would go to these sessions to have better control of my emotions and be aware of certain thoughts and feelings that come up regularly. By learning how to let go of these and concentrate on stilling my mind, I started to find my peace. In fact, beyond these 5 benefits stated, the greatest one has to be this feeling of freedom from the heaviness and negativity that seems to be normal these days. Instead, I have a better place to go, all thanks to meditation.

Guide to the Ultimate Warm-ups Routine

So you are committed to achieving a healthier body. Because of this, never make the mistake of short-changing yourself. There are a variety of exercises out there that will fit everyone. This is great for those who are willing to gain from its benefits. But nothing would be effective no matter how strenuous the exercise routine is, unless done the right way. Having the ultimate warm-ups routine is one key to achieving exercise goals. Here are effective tips that will make you perform optimally and avoid injuries at the same time.

What You Need to Know 

Think of the ultimate warm-ups routine as the main training preparation. The idea is to have all gears in the body aligned. This is to make it run smoothly once the warm up is done. There is a need to do progressive movements like walking lunges, toe touches, and a few high knees. The purpose is to get all the joints moving in a synchronized manner. These classic moves will loosen and stretch the muscles. By doing so, they don’t strain or snap as the exercise becomes tougher.

To warm up is a typical way to literally “warm up” or condition the body. The purpose is to increase its performance during exercise. However, the ultimate warm-ups routine is not the same with all types of exercise. Those who do weightlifting have different warm-ups with those who do marathons. There are similarities, yes, but a specific plan should be made for the warm up set to be effective.

The Basic Goals with a Warm Up

  1. The fitness level as well as the type of exercise is the basis of what warm up routine to take. Essentially, these goals should be achieved:
  2. Loosen those tight muscles. Mobility movements, like foam rolling, are a great method of warming up the all joints and muscle groups.
  3. Pump the heart up. Low resistance biking or even a jog will help the heart to thump a little faster. This will also warm up the muscles and will switch on the nervous system. So not only the body becomes alert but the mind as well.
  4. Dynamic stretching is a must. Most people think that static stretching is okay. Yet, this will only stunt exercise performance. Dynamic stretching, or continuous range of movement motions, is the perfect solution. Arm circles, leg forward kicks, toe touches, and the likes are the best. The point is to not hold the stretch.
  5. Practice the exercise pattern. What better way to warm up than to practice the actual exercise? But do this at a much lower intensity. This will enhance neuromuscular adaptation, which is basically making the muscles remember the actions. This will prepare the body for the final and tougher routine ahead.

Mainly, warm ups can spell the difference between having a so-so exercise and achieving the ultimate goals of fitness. If you are still at odds on what warm ups to take, here are top moves that you can start with:

  1. Basic dynamic actions like lunges, squats, hand walk, arm and foot circles.
  2. Do 5 minutes of jumping rope. This little session will get your heart pumping in no time.
  3. Balance challenge using the muscles for the actual training will help stabilize the muscles.
  4. Jumping jacks! Kids’ favorite maybe, but 10 minutes of these will help work on your core. It will pump the heart, and will also stretch those arm and leg muscle groups.
  5. Swing it! Swinging movements like arm swings, front to back leg swings, and cross-body leg swings. They will make those muscles resilient more flexible, and a lot more responsive.
  6. Try yoga. Yoga is a great flexibility enhancer. If you are looking forward to prepare not only the body for an intense work out, this is the ultimate warm up to learn. It will sync the mind, body, and spirit and at the same time stretch the muscles to its elastic excellence.
  7. One way to keep the intensity up for any of these warm up routines is by having some sort of entertainment while doing it all. Crank the volume up while listening to some workout music. One good thing about music is that it helps the mind get on the right track. It tends to make you focus, relax the mind and get the body moving.
  8. You may also try unconventional warm up routines. Choose those that are fun and challenging. Examples are crab walk, spider crawl, inchworm, bunny box jump, and other wild exercises. They are inspired to awaken the animal instinct in you.

Choices for warm up exercises are endless. Do not limit yourself, change it according to what your body needs. As with any other fitness regimes, the most important thing to consider is that you enjoy every aspect of it. Make the whole exercise routine an enjoyable experience. Any warm up routine should not fatigue you. Rather, make it a goal to make each warm up steps count. From the time that you warm up until the last breathe during the cool down; always remember that it is for your own good and that it is you who will enjoy it.