Exercise Rivals: Yoga Versus Swimming

Exercise Rivals: Yoga Versus Swimming

*This article was originally published 1/21/2016. It was updated 9/27/2016*

With all of the exciting types of exercise out there, it can be hard determining which ones you should add to your regular physical fitness routine. You want something engaging and fun! At the same time, you want something that is going to help you meet your fitness goals, whether that’s weight loss, increased muscle mass, or increased endurance. Swimming and yoga both make the list of popular exercises, but which one is better for you?


Don’t Worry, Get Happy

Both yoga and swimming produce endorphins. Endorphins interact with the pain receptors in your brain, and reduce the amount of pain that you feel. They also release positive feelings into the body, similar to that of morphine. The endorphins produced from exercise help reduce stress, prevent anxiety and depression, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep.

Unbreak My Heart

While yoga is associated with decreased risks for heart disease, it doesn’t provide you with that aerobic workout your heart needs. When swimming, your whole body works together to move you through the water.This works your heart and lungs and “trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently, which is generally reflected in declines in the resting heart rate and breathing rate.”
That’s not all, though! Swimming can also be relaxing and meditative, which, like yoga, reduces your stress levels. With that two-for-one, swimming is a clear winner for your heart!

© Sport the library/Bill Bachman Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Swimming - Action shot of Jeff Hardy (AUS) in the pool (freestyle) as he takes a breath. Event unknown.
© Sport the library/Bill Bachman
Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Swimming
– Action shot of Jeff Hardy (AUS) in the
pool (freestyle) as he takes a breath. Event unknown.

P-U-M-P, Pump it Up!

When it comes to pumping up your muscle mass, yoga is the clear winner. Yoga poses require you to actively engage different muscle groups to complete the different poses. Yoga conditions and strengthens your muscles to perform everyday activities more effectively. It does this by toning large and small muscle groups through balanced body-weight exercises.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

If losing weight is your goal, however, then swimming is the better option. Swimming firms your body, burns calories, and boosts your metabolism. Researchers have found that swimmers have smaller waists and hips and more lean muscle mass. An intense swimming workout can burn around 700 calories an hour. Because water is 800 times more dense than air, swimming provides more resistance than “dry” exercising, which in turn helps you melt fat.


Can Yoga Make Your Swimming Better?

Yoga and swimming each offers such a variety of health benefits. Can doing both be mutually beneficial? According to Jeff Grace over at SwimSwam.com, yoga can add many benefits to your swimming workout. Yoga stretches increase ones flexibility and mobility, which lengthens muscles and increases range of motion. Yoga also makes you more aware of your body, technique and form, strengthens your core muscles which in turn improves posture and heightens your float. Yoga also works on your breathing and helps prevent injuries.
The best sequence is to perform yoga after your swim. Yoga incorporates static stretching (stretches while your body is at rest, holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds). Many studies show that static stretching actually decreases power for up to 1 hour during subsequent activities. Yoga is better left as a post-swim routine to add general flexibility and toning.

The Conclusion

While yoga and swimming are both fantastic exercises on their own, they’re great for different reasons.  Consider making room for them both in your daily or weekly fitness routine. Or, perhaps better yet, try your hand at underwater yoga for the best of both worlds!

underwater yoga kate middeton free diver
By Sylvain7171 via wikimedia

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