An image of a man swimming in the pool.

Sink or Swim: The Surprising Impact of Swimming on Muscle Healing

This article was written by Chris Marshall

“Do you know how many people around the world learn to swim?”

It feels like a good question for bar trivia or a dinner party, right? But the topic of swimming is an interesting one to dive into, particularly with its health benefits.

You might have guessed that only 44% of adults can swim globally.

Some countries encourage swimming lessons through national curriculum and widespread schemes with between 85-88% of people being able to swim in countries like the UK and USA.

Meanwhile, this number is much lower in other countries like South Africa and India, which lack the same infrastructure and support with this skill.

But, did you know that, of those roughly 2.7 billion people across the world that can swim, it’s estimated that only 4.7 million of those people (less than 0.2%) swim regularly, i.e. at least twice a month?

Not only is swimming good for muscle recovery, but the act of swimming itself can have a much wider impact on your health and recovery…

    

Is it OK to swim with sore muscles?

           

It is okay to swim with muscle soreness. Of all the forms of exercise, swimming is one of the safest options because of the natural ‘cushioning’ effect created by submerging the body in water.

However, some people should approach swimming on muscle soreness with caution.

While generally speaking, gentle swimming can be brilliant for muscle movement and recovery, you should listen to your body. If your pain exceeds anything other than a dull muscle ache (i.e. more serious pain, moving pain, shooting pains), you should avoid or stop swimming immediately.

If in doubt, always consult professional medical advice that can be tailored to your circumstances.

    

Should you swim after your workout?

            

Swimming can be a full-body workout in its own right but it can also be a great complement to other physical activity. A few benefits to ending your workout with a recovery swim include:

  • Acting as a stretching/flexibility cool-down
  • Physically lowering your body’s temperature
  • Regulating heartbeat
  • Alleviating pressure off any key joints of muscle groups under particular stress
  • Giving a sense of feeling refreshed before getting washed and changed

The physical change of scenery and the way in which your body has to move through the space creates a helpful liminal space between a high-intensity workout and returning home to wash and rest.

The change in weight management also facilitates an easy full-body check-in, helping you to monitor and better understand motions of difficulty or pain at that present time without the added stress of weights, fast movement, or gym equipment.

    

What is muscle recovery?

           

Put plainly, ‘muscle recovery’ is the rebuilding of damaged body tissue after a period of exertion. It involves a few key steps that you can take charge of that complement each other in healing the body:

Rest - mental and physical rest are vital in supporting your body’s natural healing processes. Physical rest can consist of both passive and active recovery (more on those later).

Nutrition - the fuel you put in your body and when you consume it has a key influence on how quickly and how well you can recover after exercise. Key food groups to focus on in your diet are:

Hydration - keeping up the fluid intake to a healthy (but not excessive) level helps with many bodily processes, especially cell healing and regeneration, the circulation and removal of cell waste, and keeping joints well-lubricated for optimum movement post-exercise.

Physical therapy - simple movements and (medically approved) at-home treatments can help maintain and build on your body’s mobility during the recovery window.

Personal trainers and physiotherapists can recommend helpful strengthening and mobility exercises.

Some people also look to apply hot compresses (depending on need and pain levels).

Red light therapy devices also support healing and recovery by targeting cell damage with medically proven laser light therapy, which encourages and even speeds up the process of cell growth and renewal in areas of pain and soreness.

    

How can red light therapy help with muscle healing?

             

When it comes to muscle recovery, targeted red light therapy takes the crown as the ultimate choice.

This remarkable targeted therapy focuses its powerful wavelengths directly on the muscles in need, offering a myriad of benefits that accelerate and optimize the recovery process.

By deeply penetrating the tissue, red light therapy stimulates cellular activity and enhances the production of ATP, promoting rapid repair and regeneration. Not only that, but it also increases blood flow to the treated area, bringing oxygen and nutrients while reducing inflammation.

With the ability to target specific areas, red light therapy offers precision treatment that maximizes its impact on muscle recovery. It's a non-invasive and natural approach that harnesses the body's healing abilities.

At Kineon, we proudly lead the way in red light therapy innovation with our extraordinary MOVE+ Pro device!

With this remarkable device, you can harness the power of targeted red light therapy to take your muscle recovery to new heights.

It's a convenient and effortless way to unlock the full potential of red light therapy and supercharge your muscle recovery journey. Say goodbye to limitations and hello to the endless possibilities offered by the MOVE+ Pro device.

 


Active Recovery VS Passive Recovery


‘Active recovery’ is a phrase used to describe low-intensity exercise completed after a high-intensity workout.

Examples of active recovery are low-intensity activities such as swimming, cycling, walking, and yoga.

Considered by some as better than stationary rest (i.e. ‘passive recovery’), this form of recovery encourages several positive processes in the body even when it’s not functioning at full capacity or under stress.

    

Does swimming speed up muscle recovery?

             

The short answer is ‘yes’ - swimming as part of active recovery does speed up muscle recovery.

Swimming can be a brilliant form of cardiovascular exercise, particularly lane swimming, and swimming in competitive contexts. It doesn’t just have to be reserved for mums’ clubs and the elderly!

    

The unique benefits of swimming for active recovery


Swimming for active recovery has many benefits, some of which are more obvious than others:


Buoyancy


One thing that swimming has over most other kinds of exercise is its level of support for the body while completing physical activity. That’s all thanks to buoyancy created by being submerged in water and the hydrostatic pressure it creates.

This buoyancy cushions the muscles and joints while they move, having several positive effects:

  • Increase in mobility and range of motion
  • Reduced stress put on joints
  • Increase in circulation and blood flow, which lowers blood pressure and heart rate


Water Resistance


Water resistance is a type of force (acting from all directions) that uses friction to slow down objects moving through water.

By its very nature, water therefore poses resistance to the body during swimming recovery. Not only this, the greater the force applied in water, the greater its resistance, making it easy to personalize its impact depending on your body’s needs.

In addition, the increased workload of your muscles in counteracting water resistance helps to strengthen them over time, improving your body’s own cushioning for any joints and promoting healing in the surrounding area of pain/ injury too.


Increased Blood Flow


Water submersion (full or partial) while swimming causes increased hydrostatic pressure, which in turn supports blood circulation.

Increased circulation has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects that parallel those provided by certain steroid drugs; a great natural kind of sports medicine!


Muscle Inflammation


Incorporating a recovery swim into your exercise routine leads to the body producing reduced levels of c-reactive protein (CRP), a protein made in the liver to support the binding of foreign and damaged cells.

This therefore shows a clear link between swimming and the redundancy of a protein directly linked with muscle inflammation.


Stretch Muscles


Though swimming won’t directly stretch your muscles, the increased range of motion provided by water buoyancy will improve body flexibility and encourage your body to use muscles in different and new ways.

As a direct result, you’ll find that some muscles will be better stretched and challenged inside the pool than outside of it.


 

Breath Control


Because swimming demands a completely different way of breathing, it requires a level of control and focus on your lungs that’s unparalleled to most other exercises. This also entails counting and timing breaths with swimming strokes, the focus and repetition of which facilitate improved breath control and focus on the activity at hand.

We’ve all been guilty of riding a bike in the gym or running on a treadmill with Netflix on our phone or Instagram at the ready.

The physical limitations of being in a pool (you wouldn’t want to drop your device there!) as well as the literal underwater movement allow you to be more present in the action.

 

Mental Health


​​Going for a swim is also great for your mental health. Of course, there are the immediate obvious benefits also associated with other exercises: reduced stress and anxiety alongside improved self-esteem, etc.

Just being by, in, and around water boosts oxytocin levels (which has anti-stress effects). Water also increases the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (related to rest).

Though this is typically discussed about nature and large open bodies of water, the act of swimming and moving in water (even a pool) can’t be that different, surely?


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Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall

Job Title: Health and Fitness Content Writer
Location: United Kingdom
Bio: Chris Marshall is an experienced health and fitness writer with a passion to empower others to achieve better health and well-being through meaningful lifestyle changes.

With a background in nutrition and fitness, Chris aims to deliver science-based, informative content to educate others.

Alongside health and fitness writing, he also works with private online clients to build positive lifestyle habits and improve their overall well-being.

About Kineon

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