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Swimming is a unique form of exercise. It takes humans out of their natural habitat and forces them to negotiate a strange new environment. Celebrity athletes such as Adam Peaty and Ellie Simmonds have helped to increase the public profile of the sport in recent years- but you don’t have to be an Olympian to get involved.
Swimming is unique in that water is 784 times denser than air, and swimmers move through it using all four limbs. This creates a low-impact stress on the muscles in the body which isn’t replicated by any other form of cardiovascular exercise. Studies have found that swimming can significantly increase muscle strength, particularly in the shoulders, back, and forearms.
Because you’re using all four limbs and are moving through water rather than air, you expend significantly more energy swimming than you do running or cycling for the same amount of time.
A study conducted by statistician Howard Wainer found that, although champion runners travelled 3.5 times the distance of champion swimmers in the same time span, it was the swimmers who burned the most energy. 25% more to be exact.