Swimming affords individuals of all ages a variety of benefits such as improving cardiovascular and mental health and helping with chronic illness. For people over age 50, swimming also provides an avenue for a low-impact form of exercise that can be accomplished by individuals who range from very fit to significantly disabled. Swimming provides post-menopausal women with a way to strengthen their bones and slow down the effects of osteoporosis or osteopenia. A study published in the "American Journal of Public Health" showed that seniors who exercised at least 60 minutes per week reduced disability, and swimming can be an excellent way of achieving this goal.
Swimming allows people over age 50 to exercise for longer periods of time and at a higher intensity due to the low-impact nature of the sport. The water provides older swimmers with buoyancy, and therefore takes the stress and strain off ailing joints. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that by 2030, nearly 40 million seniors will have arthritis. Swimming provides an avenue for continued exercise despite this ailment. By minimizing joint stress, seniors exercise much longer and thereby improve heart and peripheral vascular health due to improved circulation during swimming.
Individuals interested in swimming as a consistent form of exercise might consider joining a masters swimming program. For a list of program offerings in your area, contact United States Masters Swimming (usms.org). Those involved in Masters Swimming have the option of competing in actual swimming meets or simply practicing with a group of other dedicated adults. Members also have access to a variety of swimming workouts as well as insurance coverage for illness or injury during sponsored events.
Helpful Swimming Gear
A variety of swimming gear may be purchased to enhance your exercise experience in the pool. Fins reduce the strain on knees and allow one to swim faster but do place more strain on the ankles. Swimming paddles come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to either add resistance in the water or remove it. Choose your style based on your current level of fitness and factor in any injuries such as a past torn rotator cuff when selecting your paddles. Swimming goggles are a must to protect the eyes from irritating chemicals in the pool. According to a study published in the "Yonsei Med Journal," seniors with advanced glaucoma should be aware that tight goggles can increase the intraocular pressure and possibly exacerbate the disease.
Pool Health Concerns
A person over the age of 50 may have a variety of underlying health conditions and therefore is more important to avoid communicable diseases whenever possible. The Center for Disease Control states that illness such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Swimmer's Ear may thrive in public pools despite the use of chemicals. Contracting one of these diseases as a senior may lead to more serious secondary complications or even hospitalization. To improve your chances of avoiding these types of illnesses, do not swallow the pool water and wash your hands after exiting the pool.