Sometimes it feels like I began swimming and running right out of the womb. Seriously, my earliest memories are of splashing in the water and running around the swing set in my parents’ backyard. I went on to run and swim throughout high school and college, and I did so without ever suffering a major injury.
I attribute my bone and muscle health to all those hours I spent in the pool. While running certainly helped me stay fit and healthy, I think swimming gave my body an opportunity to restore itself after the high impact nature of my running workouts. And that’s why I highly recommend swimming to parents of adolescents and teens, especially those who are showing early signs of osteoporosis. Here’s how swimming can help teens’ bones:
Boost muscle strength. Your teen’s muscles are their bones’ greatest protectors. So, as this article on physical activity and healthy bones from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development notes, even though swimming isn’t load bearing it does build strong muscles and “having strong muscles helps build strong bones.” The article also notes that the years prior to puberty are essential for developing bone mass. The earlier you can jump in the better!
Protect your joints. Swimming is low impact so compared to high impact exercises, such as running, it is a lot easier on the joints. While this guide is on the benefits of swimming for seniors and their bones, its points ring true for everyone. It notes that swimming leads to less discomfort in knees, ankles, and hips while also building flexibility that can mean fewer injuries. When teens start protecting their joints at an early age, they’ll be in much better shape and have less pain later on in life.
Maintain a healthy weight. As adults, sometimes we look back at our teen years as times when we had fewer responsibilities and worries. But it’s important to remember that teens often have very busy schedules. Between going to school, studying after school, and taking part in extracurricular activities, they’re often not left with much free time. And that means, as KidsHealth.org notes in its piece on how to motivate teens to get active, they don’t have much time to fit in exercise that can help keep them healthy. Of course, being a healthy weight is one way to protect your bones, and swimming provides a fun way for teens to get the exercise they need.
Improve bone density. The denser your bones the stronger they are. And while swimming certainly helps build strong bones by protecting them with strong muscles, it usually isn’t lauded as the best way to build bone density. However, as SparkPeople.com explains, a new study out of Israel found that women who swim actually do have denser bone mass in their legs than women who don’t swim.
Whether you want your teen to have stronger bones or more well protected bones, swimming is an excellent choice. I think, too, that you’ll find that you won’t have to do much begging for them to get in the pool. It’s a fun way to exercise with extraordinary physical benefits.