Guest blogger Toby Garbett is an Olympian, two-time World Champion rower and GB Age Group Triathlete. He is a personal trainer, mentor and speaker.
About one in three adults have difficulty sleeping at any one time, both physical and emotional stress are a common cause for this. Insomnia itself causes anxiety and so sufferers often end up in a vicious cycle of anxiety and sleep deprivation. Swimming is a great activity to relax your body and mind and this in turn, help you to sleep. Whilst this may be the case for other form of exercise too, swimming has the advantage of having a much lower risk of injury compared with other sports and is suitable for most people, including those with illness or injury.
Why is swimming a good way to help me to feel physically tired?
Swimming burns around 350 to 420 calories an hour, depending on the intensity-the more energy you use, the more tired you will be and the better you should sleep as a result. Compare this to walking, which burns around 177 to 279 calories an hour and you can see then benefits!
Swimming uses all of the major muscle groups and is therefore a demanding exercise that can tire the entire body. All the main four strokes engage the abdominals, biceps, triceps, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Other primary muscles used in swimming include the anterior and posterior deltoids, pectorals and trapezius.
Swimming is an aerobic exercise which means that it moves large muscle groups continuously for a duration that raises the heart rate. Due to the buoyancy and cooling effects of water, a swimmers heart rate will not reach the same level as the heart rate of a person doing the same amount of exercise on dry land. This can be of benefit to those with certain illnesses.
Water requires more work to move in than air due to resistance. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, despite its buoyancy. However, the buoyancy of water lessens the stress of gravity’s pull of the weight-bearing joints. Any stress of movement shifts to the muscles, making swimming both aerobic and anaerobic and this combination can wear you out!
Why is swimming a good way to reduce stress?
Aside from making you more physically tired, swimming can aid sleep by reducing stress. Many swimmers find that a good swimming session leaves them feeling happier and more relaxed. As the incidence of depression is on the increase, much research is being done into why this is the case and even whether swimming could be used as part of treatment for this. Depressed or not, it seems that swimming can make us all feel better!
As well as possible biochemical changes in the brain, swimming requires alternating stretch and relaxation of skeletal muscles while simultaneously deep-breathing in a rhythmic pattern similar to Yoga.
So in summary, there is clear evidence that swimming makes us less stressed, more tired and SLEEP BETTER.