6 Ways Swimming Will Injury Proof Your Body

Want a faster return to the road? Dive in for active recovery.

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Whether you’re waiting for an errant joint to heal or searching for a way to beat post-marathon muscle exhaustion, consider swapping the pavement for the pool. Swimming is recognised as one of the best full body workouts, and can be just as helpful to runners, boosting performance out of the water and cutting down rest time from injury.

Whether you’re recovering from injury, or swapping a long run for some time in the pool, here’s six reasons why swimming is the perfect active recovery solution for runners:

1. It’s a low-impact exercise

Any land-based attempt at keeping your fitness up will invariably result in risking further injury to yourself. Researchers at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland found that water-based resistance training has long-term benefits when it comes to joint recovery. Participants that had knee operations were subjected to 12 weeks of swimming training, and 12 months later the swimmers had a 32% increase in knee extensor power and a 50% increase in knee flexor power compared to those who restricted recovery to dry land.

2. It assists in regenerating damaged nerves

If your injury is severe enough to have caused damage to the nerves in your legs, swimming might speed up the regeneration process. A study in the journal Neural Plasticity found that damaged nerves regenerated faster after 21 days of swimming training. The study claims that swimming exercise at any stage of recovery helps the regeneration process, so feel free to dive in when you’re ready.

3. It increases bone strength

Prevention is better than cure. Swimming ups bone density with no impact on the joint at all, according to the American Physiological Society. Just as one of weight training’s key benefits is strengthening bones as well as muscles, the constant water resistance acts in the same way to shore up your body’s defences against fractures and fragility.

4. It builds running muscle

Swimming as a form of resistance training should not be overrated. Although it won’t feel like it, water is 800% denser than air, which means you’re working muscles essential to running with every stroke. Remaining horizontal at all times crafts a strong core, while constant flutter kicks work your entire posterior chain of muscles from your glutes down, helping muscular endurance and enabling you to create power during a run.

5. You’re staying fit while you recover

There’s no doubt about it; swimming confers a lot of benefits, but crucially it’s a great form of cardio, free from any real load-bearing strain. Research from Speedo states just 30 minutes of swimming burns up to 350 calories, double that of moderate jogging. Take the plunge to keep your fitness in check, until you’re ready to return to the road.

6. It’s a form of active stretching

During rehabilitation for a muscular problem, working on your mobility is key. Swimming acts as mobility training, rotating shoulder, core and upper-body muscles while retraining your hip flexors and calves to move under resistance. The result is an increased flexibility and a return to running form, while being safely supported by the weightlessness of the water.

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