You may just think of swimming as a way to cool off and catch some relief from the summer heat, but did you know that swimming might also give you relief from joint pain or an injury?
Swimming is an ideal tool for rehabilitation from injuries—such as back injuries or injuries to the sciatic nerve—for many reasons:
1. Swimming is a low-impact exercise. Staying active after an injury is important if you want to avoid stiffness in the area. However, many exercises—even walking—can put additional strain on your sore or injured body. Swimming is one of the few exercises that is truly low-impact and can help you keep moving without increasing the strain on the joint or muscle you are trying to rehab.
2. Swimming is not a weight-bearing exercise. If you are injured, your doctor may advise you not to put any weight on your injured joint or muscle. Because swimming makes you essentially weightless, it is a great way to move without bearing any weight, thus relieving pressure on the injury. Depending on the type of injury, you may want to try various strokes until you find the one that creates the least amount of pressure. If you are suffering from a back injury, try swimming backstroke, allowing the water to support your back as you swim.
3. Swimming is active stretching. Again, mobility is very important during the rehabilitation process. Active stretching helps keeps the muscles loose and flexible, and swimming is a great way to stretch.
4. Swimming is a cardio workout. One the most frustrating results of an injury is the inability to stay active and exercise. Swimming is a cardio workout that provides the opportunity for someone who is still healing from an injury to stay in shape.
5. Swimming may promote nerve regeneration. One study on animals found that swimming accelerates nerve regeneration, speeding the healing process from (in this case) sciatic nerve injury.
If you have suffered an injury, it’s important to talk to your doctor before beginning any form of exercise or rehabilitation program on your own. In some cases, it may not be advised for you to swim immediately following an injury, but when you do get permission to begin exercising again, swimming is often the best place to start.
To get adequate fitness benefits from swimming, swim a minimum of 150 minutes per week. This can be done in increments of 30 minutes for five days per week or whatever is most convenient and comfortable for you, as long as you meet your minimum requirements. For maximum health and weight benefits, gradually work toward swimming 300 minutes per week.