Swimming is one of the most popular activities and sports in North American and an excellent way to get in shape. According to the US Census Bureau , swimming ranks as the fourth most popular sport activity for youth and adults.
But what is it specifically about swimming that makes it so free-range and fair-trade awesome when it comes to health benefits?
If you are thinking about starting swimming for exercise, there are a metric butt-ton of reasons to do so.
Here are just a few of the mental and health benefits of swimming.
No gravity = longer time exercising.
With most forms of exercising, whether it’s running or strength training, there is a long period of adjustment, especially for sedentary individuals. Because there is a reduced load on the joints and decreased muscle pain, exercisers find that they can spend more time in the water working out and less time icing sore joints and muscles. 
Boost your mood.
One of the things that swimmers know, and that novice swimmers are always a little surprised to learn, is just how much of a mood boost they get from spending some time in the water.
One study found  that both collegiate men and women had significantly improved moods after going for a swim, with decreased tension and depression. Another study, performed by Speedo, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of swim gear, showed that over 74% of swimmers felt mentally refreshed and 70% felt less stressed out after spending some time in the pool.
Strength training for your lungs.
Swimming presents a novel challenge to traditional land-based exercising—you need to be consistently aware of how you are breathing. Make no mistake, swimming is a tremendous cardiovascular form of working out that increases expiratory volume. One paper found that swimmers who had been on the dry side of the pool for three years or longer still had stronger lungs than middle-distance runners. 
Lights calories on fire.
Swimming is a sneaky way to lose weight. The cool water, the absence of sweat—you don’t really notice how much of a workout you are getting. How many calories you will burn depends on a few different factors, so the numbers below are only generalized guidelines.
Nevertheless, swimming consistently out-performs many “regular” forms of exercise when it comes to drop-kicking calories. Whether you are doing swimming workouts for weight loss, or just want a way to tune out daily life for a few minutes, swimming laps is a killer way to get in shape.
- See also: How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?
One study  found that a 160-lb person swimming at a “light or moderate” rate burns 423 in an hour compared to walking (314), elliptical trainer (365), and bicycling (292).
Sleep like a champion.
Long time competitive swimmers know just how crushing swimming for hours on end can be. There were countless nights where I would come home from swim practice and stop for a quick drive-by of pasta in the kitchen before passing out ten hours straight. You don’t need to train like a competitive swimmer to get the same push into a better night of sleep.
Research  with older adults suffering from insomnia showed significant improvements in sleep quality from doing just a little bit of aerobic exercise each day.
Swimming is a full-body workout.
Another big perk of swimming laps for exercise is the full-body nature of the workout. The different ways you can target your upper, lower, and full-body while in the pool are almost limitless. If you want to ease into swimming, grab a water jogging belt or a pool noodle and mix in some water jogging, which has been shown to have the same aerobic benefits as regular running .
Looking for a strictly upper-body workout? Grab a pull-buoy, put it between your thighs, and do a long pull set (hand paddles optional!). Want to go full-body? Do a workout that incorporates all four strokes, drills, kicking, pulling, and swimming. There is no shortage to the number of swimming exercises you can deploy in the water to achieve your health and fitness goals.
The options in the pool are only limited by your imagination.
Swimming and water immersion boost recovery.
When we hop into the pool and crushing laps, we are increasing circulation, moving blood and fluids from our extremities to our core. This is all to say that getting into the water–just immersing yourself in the water has been shown to promote these effects–helps to reduce fluid retention in muscles, increase cardiac output, and ramp up waste and nutrient transportation.
“Water immersion may cause physiological changes within the body that could improve recovery from exercise,” writes Ian Wilcock in a paper that investigated the benefits of water immersion for athletic recovery.
Additionally, researchers suggest that just getting into the water after a hard workout or race can provide a psychological boost by reducing the sense of fatigue when immersed in water.
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for pregnant women.
Pregnant women love the pressure-relieving aspect of water immersion. For a precious few moments, they can take a little weight off their back. Swimming laps, as it turns out, is also a great way for pregnant women to keep moving and improve child-birth outcomes.
Researchers compared swimmers to physically inactive pregnant women and found that spending 1.5 hours a week or more swimming reduced preterm birth and also reduced congenital malformations. Additionally, the researchers noted that there was no visible risk of swimming in pools treated with disinfection chemicals like chlorine.
Now this perk to lap swimming is something that I have been thinking about a lot during my sessions in the water, and it is strictly based on my own experience, so take that with a grain of salt.
When I am in the water, I am focused completely on what I am doing. My technique, swimming efficiently, pushing myself. Because there are no distractions—no smartphones or social media beckoning for my attention, no business calls coming in, no emails to respond to—it’s one of the very few moments in my life where my mind can be quiet and I can block out all the noise and trash-fire news.
In times like these, having moments where we can just be with ourselves and our own thoughts and not have our concentration and attention being perpetually yanked and tugged at is a welcome and necessary thing.
How to Get Started:
The Beginner’s Guide to Lap Swimming. Want to start swimming? Here’s the beginner lap swimmer’s guide to everything you need to know about getting in shape and having fun at the lap pool.
Swim Gear Essentials for the Beginner Swimmer. Here’s a full rundown on the swimming equipment you will need to dominate the pool, as well as our top picks for types of swimming accessories that work best.