With many South Africans becoming more sedentary since the onset of the pandemic, the population’s health is in threat of serious decline.
Swimming is a low-impact, non-contact activity with numerous health benefits that you can even do in winter, thanks to access to indoor heated pools, writes Johann Strauss, National Swim Manager at Virgin Active South Africa.
Dive in to get active
South Africa is ranked as one of the unhealthiest countries in the world and our health metrics have only taken a nosedive since the start of the pandemic.
With social distancing measures still in place there has been a sizeable shift in physical activity levels, wellbeing and eating habits globally.
So, how can we increase our activity levels if we’ve been quite inactive in recent months, while remaining safe? Simple, just dive right in.
A safe environment
With the lightening of lockdown levels, gyms have reopened and so have their swimming pools.
People may be wary of hitting a public or gym pool in the middle of a pandemic, but the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that when chlorine and disinfectant measures are properly maintained, the virus cannot be transmitted and swimmers need not be concerned.
Covid-19 would be inactivated at even lower chlorination levels than those suggested by The World Health Organisation and considered the norm of 15mg.min/litre.
Social distancing rules still apply and pool facilities must be disinfected using automated dosing systems and tested by staff a minimum of 3 times a day.
There is a 3 person per lane limit for individual swimming and a 5 person per lane limit for squad training (as long as all members of the squad stick to the 1.5 social distancing protocol). Mask wearing is required when not in the pool or when in contact with others in common spaces.
The physical benefits
Swimming is a fantastic full-body workout, especially for those who have been sedentary in recent months. It gets the heart rate up and burns calories without impacting bones and joints.
Swimming fires up more of the body’s major muscle groups than many other cardio activities, helping to tone muscles and build strength. It engages the legs, the upper body, especially lats, as well as the muscles of the middle back and triceps.
Swimming regular laps with a variety of strokes such as crawl, breaststroke and backstroke uses most muscle groups, while the water provides gentle resistance.
Sport Scientist and expert, Professor Ross Tucker, recently shared something I believe is of great importance for South Africans to remember when considering incorporating swimming into their routines:
“Swimming ticks the necessary boxes in terms of Covid-19 because it’s a cardiovascular-focused activity that activates most of the muscle groups, but at low impact so the risk of injury is kept as low as possible.
“Given the importance of cardiovascular health (heart and lungs) not only for general well-being but also specifically as a protective measure against illness (and Covid-19), anyone who takes up swimming is making a really productive and beneficial investment in their health. One of the unique aspects about swimming is that it forces a very rhythmical and specific breathing pattern, which has been shown to be helpful in asthmatics in particular, but everyone will benefit from that ‘discipline’ of controlled, rhythmical breathing.” maintains Tucker.
And there are mental benefits
Because swimming is often solitary activity, it is also the perfect opportunity to practise mindfulness and reconnect with oneself.
The South African Society of Psychiatrists say that mental health problems are one of the biggest threats of 2021.
The pandemic is causing unprecedented stress and anxiety, which is stretching mental wellbeing to the limit.
Swimming, much like other exercise routines, can allow us to disengage from stress for a while and transforms routine lap sessions into an immersive form of mindfulness.
- Begin each swim with a purpose and use the solitude to simply be.
- Pause between laps, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and tune into your body.
The weight of the world becomes significantly less when you’re weightless in water.
Ideal for all ages
As temperatures drop and we welcome winter, hitting the pool may be the furthest thing from our minds.
But for those who want to start on a fitness journey or rebuild healthy habits, swimming offers a gentle, low-impact way to get moving again.
It’s ideal for children and seniors looking to stay active.
Facilities that are geared up for indoor and heated pools, and are fully complaint with social distancing regulations, offer a safe and comfortable space to build up fitness for optimal health and a balanced lifestyle.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.