Swim for Life, Love, Happiness, and Health

Photo of woman wearing a swim mask while standing in a swimming pool.

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By MARY BOYLAN

(SENIOR WIRE) As one who grew up in a family of nine children, I’ve always believed one of the best investments my parents made in raising their large brood was the annual purchase of a summer-long membership to a swimming pool.

It was a good way for Mom to keep us in one place, out of mischief, and exercising—which generally made us tired, and my parents very happy. My mom always believed that an exhausted child who went to bed without a fuss was a good child.

My parents wisely knew exercise and sports would help us stay happy and healthy. Growing up, my brothers and I swam on the swim team, and when I wasn’t working out or swimming in meets, I whiled away many hours with friends just playing in the water.

I remember how joyful I felt as I floated and glided through the water, seeing how the sunlight reflected to make the water shimmer and sparkle. It was a glorious feeling.

I still feel that sense of anticipated joy when I go to the pool, knowing my workout will no doubt make me feel better, and a good soak in the whirlpool afterwards will leave me pain-free, with my aches and pains banished once again.

Now I’m in my 60s, after swimming competitively on and off since I was a kid, and knowing how good it makes me feel, I firmly believe swimming can extend my life. In fact, I’m banking on it! That’s why my investment in a membership to a health club is worth it.

The health benefits of swimming are well-known. Swimming is good for your heart. The more you swim, the stronger your muscles, increasing physical endurance. Swimming is also good for your circulation and can help keep inflammation low, staving off the effects of chronic conditions such as diabetes. Swimming can ease the pain of arthritis by stretching your body, improving flexibility.

In fact, any water-based exercise can improve joint health.

But for me, perhaps the best thing about swimming is it’s good for my mental and social health. Those happy hormones, endorphins, which are released during a workout, keep my mood happy and anxiety low.

I’ve also found swimming to be a great way to socialize. I swam regularly with a group of women for 15 years. Working out together in the pool was fun and good for our health, and socializing together was good for our mental health.

I enjoyed our chats in the locker room, whirlpool, or steam sauna. We’d occasionally share a cup of coffee or breakfast afterward. Plus, we had regular get-togethers to celebrate birthdays and holidays.

Humans are social creatures, and the impact that loneliness and isolation can have on the human body is startling.

Research indicates that isolation and loneliness can be linked to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, and a weakened immune system. Keeping up social contacts and physical activity is the key to keeping a healthy body and extending our lives.

If you’re unsure about the best way to go about finding a water exercise that’s right for you, I say try them all. You may find a class that you really like with great classmates.

If you’re a beginning swimmer, many options are available for swim classes and private lessons. For those with more swim skills, there’s master’s swimming, (www.usms.org), which I’ve participated in for years.

Swimming is the fourth most popular sport for exercising in the United States.

Whether for swimming laps or taking a class, finding the right kind of swim facility is key. I highly recommend shopping around for something that is right for you and within your budget. Check out park district pools, which are inexpensive. Plus, you can choose a summer membership to an outdoor park district or swim club. Outdoor swimming is my favorite!

When my boyfriend and I moved in together last year, we knew we wanted to work out together, so finding the right health club facility we both liked and could afford was important. We shopped around quite a bit. Clubs will often let you sample what they have to offer. We also checked out several park district facilities and settled on a place that is great for both of us.

Whatever you choose, stick with it for a while. Maintaining a regular exercise regimen helps ensure it will become a lifestyle. If you find you don’t like a class or workout routine, change it up, but stick with it. You’ll eventually find something you really like, even love. MSN

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