Myth-busting: How swimming can hold its own vs running
Swimming has always been perceived as one of the more ‘gentle’ of sports; good for the young, old and those in-between.
Easy on the joints, easy on the purse (after all, you only really need a costume (for legal and decency reasons!), some goggles and a towel), and easily accessible (there are over 4,600 public pools in the UK, according to a 2013 report by Sport England).
However, in recent years, there’s been a decline in participant numbers, and the closure of over 300 public pools in the last 18 months has certainly not helped public perception of this fantastic sport.
It’s high time we exposed a few common misconceptions about swimming, so here’s a few myth-busting facts to set the record straight:
Swimming doesn’t help build muscle.
Swimming is in fact a great way to gain muscle strength throughout your body. Swimming uses more muscle groups than running to propel your body through the water. Think about it, you use your arms to pull, legs to kick, your back rotates and your stomach holds it all together to stabilise your core. Just have a look at the pro swimmers’ physiques and you’ll see the truth in this.
Swimming doesn’t help build bone mass and protect against osteoporosis
Received wisdom would have it, to build bone density (or at least, to not lose it), you need to be doing some kind of weight-bearing activity, e.g running or walking.
There is some research out there published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, to demonstrate (albeit in rats not humans) that whilst running was still slightly better at building bone mass in the ‘running’ group, the swimming group still fared better than the control group who did no exercise at all. Given that you’re much less likely to injure yourself in the pool than on the tarmac, it seems as good a reason as any to get that swimming costume on.
Swimming won’t burn as many calories as running
Most people (if asked) would probably rate running as burning more calories than swimming. Not least because the effort produced whilst running is so visible to others – red face, sweaty T-shirt, a lot of huffing and puffing, you get the picture. The perception of effort to calories burned draws an easy conclusion. After all, watching a swimmer glide through the water just seems a whole lot more serene, right?
You’d be surprised perhaps to learn that swimming holds its own on the calories burned front. Depending on the stroke and intensity, you can burn through that chocolate bar at least as fast as you would do on a treadmill. Approximately 100 cals per 10 mins of freestyle is equal to a 10-minute run, but without the sweat dripping into your eyes.
Swimming makes us more hungry than running
The issue here is more likely to be one of thirst, rather than hunger. The parts of our brain which signal hunger and thirst to us are very close together, so they’re often easily confused. Usually we will assume we’re hungry rather than thirsty and reach for the snacks instead of the water bottle.
If you’re heading out on a run that’s longer than say 30 mins, you will know that you should probably be taking some water along for the ride. But how many of us would think to do so when swimming? You’re likely to see the advanced and pro swimmers break from thrashing up and down the lanes for a sip and assume it doesn’t apply to you (because you’re just pootling along for a gentle dip, right?).
Take note and do the same yourself. You’ll be losing fluid from sweating in just the same way as would be obvious on dry land. The difference is, you’re surrounded by water so you probably won’t even realise it’s happening.
So why not dig out your swim kit and head down to your local pool to check out the reality for yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Originally posted 2017-04-23 12:38:02.