Image Credit: YZ

Swimming is a pain-free sport that anyone at any age could take part in

I was four years old when I jumped into an Olympic-sized swimming pool for the first time. I recalled seeing people swim on television, so I imitated their movements and started swimming the front crawl to the other end of the pool.

My swim coach, a very tanned and strict bald man, had told my mother to enrol me into a swim team. After that, I swam six times a week as part of a competitive squad until I turned 21.

As someone who hails from the Mediterranean beach-side city of Alexandria, swimming is an essential part of growing up Egyptian. Almost every young child is unceremoniously thrown into the shallow end and taught how to swim. The water-centric upbringing was because of my parents’ love for the ocean.

If you are taking part in the Dubai Fitness Challenge and want to exercise in an effective way that doesn’t have a painful impact on your joints, then swimming is the sport for you.

The benefits of swimming are substantial

Hugo Fernandez, a UAE based personal trainer and swimming buff based in Dubai taking part in the Dubai Fitness Challenge told Gulf News “Swimming is a non-impact sport, that doesn’t affect the joints, so it’s the perfect activity to do at any age. It promotes relaxation of the muscle by releasing the pressure from it. It also helps to improve the posture, as well as aerobic capacity. When I wanted to recover from back injuries in the past, I would swim.”

Fernandez has been training since he was three years old and was taught by his father who still works as a swim coach 24 years later. Fernandez spent his early youth taking part in competitions and training twice a day. As he got older, he himself became a coach.

 Swimming is very beneficial for our body because it’s one of the most complete sports."

This means that we use all of our muscles when we exercise in water, something you don’t get when you work out on land. "Swimming is also some of the best resistance training. It’s a great injury prevention sport, since it doesn’t create any impact on our joints” he said.

I learned to swim because I had to, now I swim  because I love to

UAE resident Hussein Mowafi, 30,  recently started swimming after he learned it was a requirement for many triathelons. He requested swimming lessons for his birthday. "When I started it was hard, but then in time, I progressed and felt more confident in the water" he told Gulf News. 

Mowafi completed the triathlon he was training for, but never stopped swimming. "These days, I swim at least twice a week." He understand the health benefits of regular swimming and continues his water-based training throughout the Dubai Fitness Challenge. 

Swimming to prevent illnesses

Professor Erik Hohmann, the consultant orthopaedic surgeon and sports physician, says one of the best things about swimming is that it is for everyone. “The fact that there is zero impact means that anyone can do it,” he tells Gulf News. “Many weight-bearing activities place substantial force on the knees, hips and ankles. Water allows the joints to be exercised without adding the effects of body weight.”

And it’s a sport that can and should be continued for a lifetime.

Dr Abdullah Sedighi, consultant cardiologist, explains that swimming is one of the best aerobic exercises for heart health. It keeps the blood vessels elastic and prevents them from getting stiff. This in turn lowers the blood pressure especially in people over 50 years old. Swimming also tunes up several heart and blood vessel reflexes making them work in harmony. “Even those who have undergone treatments for heart disease should be swimming,” he says. “There should be no excuse.”

Dr Andrew Jamieson, a consultant endocrinologist, believes that people who suffer from diabetes could improve their illness by spending more time in the pool. “Swimming improves insulin resistance and helps contribute to reducing the potential for diabetes related complications such as blindness and heart disease,” he says.

He tells the story of the American Olympic gold medallist Gary Hall Jr, who dominated the 1996 Olympics despite being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes three years earlier. He used swimming to his advantage and maintained a presence at the highest level of international competition for a decade. “Remember insulin treatment does not prevent anyone from taking exercise, and excelling in their sport.”

So even if you feel like, you’ve reached an age where your body isn’t what it used to be, or you suffered an injury, that you can’t put any weight on, swimming is a great way to get your 30 minutes of exercising in during this year’s Dubai Fitness Challenge.