College of DuPage Nursing Student Lucas Nervig wrote for Healthy Lombard that there is a saying that exists that suggests, if doctors could prescribe exercise as a medication, it would be the most prescribed medication in the world. That saying reads true as according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019), 42.4% of U.S. adults were considered obese in 2017-2018.
That staggering statistic reveals an increase in weight, paralleling the increasing costs for medical procedures and medications. To improve the ongoing health issue of overweight and obesity in the U.S., changes such as incorporating exercise into an everyday lifestyle, are necessary. For elderly individuals, swimming is actually a valuable form of fitness and beneficial to mental health, without the added impact on the joints which may be painful. As a low-impact, non-weight bearing exercise, swimming provides a type of therapy for the body, especially for elderly individuals due to age-related changes such as the cartilage becoming thinner resulting in joint stiffness and pain that may be severe at times (Health Benefits, 2016). Swimming relieves this pressure while also improving cardiovascular endurance, thereby, preventing the risk for cardiac disease and assisting with weight management. Post-menopausal women who engaged in swimming have been found to have improved (or maintained) bone health (Health Benefits, 2016).
Swimming has also been found to provide mental health benefits. During exercise, endorphins in the brain are released, especially exercise that is performed at higher intensities for longer durations. Endorphins improve mood, attitude, and alleviate stress. Since swimming is a type of exercise that may be more feasible for seniors, it may also be beneficial for stress reduction.
Another benefit of exercise may be improved social connections. It is easy for seniors to become isolated from their social group and even their family. Swimming can provide an opportunity to network with other seniors. Programs have been designed for seniors at the BR Ryall YMCA in which seniors are able to sign up for exercise sessions each week with peers to improve their motivation for exercise while at the same time, offer opportunities for networking. To make sure the seniors feel included in these classes, instructors also regularly ‘check in’ on the members on a consistent basis (Water Exercise, 2021).
Overall, the benefits of swimming can have a lasting impact on physical and social health. For those who are currently inactive, swimming may offer a valuable addition to lifestyle for physical, mental, and social benefits. The pandemic has resulted in widespread boredom for many, although perhaps swimming is a new way to stay motivated to improve health and help to fill that void.
Adult Obesity Facts. (2020, June 29). Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health Benefits of Water-Based Exercise. (2016, May 4). Centers for Disease Control and
Water Exercise. (2021). BR Ryall