Swimming – Concept, history, styles and benefits

We explain everything about swimming, its history, the styles that can be practiced and its health benefits.

swimming - swimmer
Swimming is the practice of movement and movement in the water.

What is swimming?

The swimming is the recreational or sports practice of movement and movement on water, using only the arms and legs of the human body. It is a technique, too, that is learned as a survival method (in fact, it is taught in numerous educational curricula), and that is practiced as an exercise given its multiple benefits to the body.

Its practice can be competitive or purely recreational. As a formal sport, it is one of the most practiced in the world, included in the Olympic disciplines and carried out in pools of different lengths (50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters). Specific swimming techniques are known as styles and they have particular names.

The exercise of swimming is possible since the human body is slightly less dense than water, so it always tends to float. Our relationship with water is very particular, despite being terrestrial beings, since at birth we are extracted from a totally submerged environment such as the maternal womb.

In fact, infants show an innate tendency to swimming and certain diving reflexes, such as automatic breath holding, decreased heart rate, and reduced circulation to the extremities (it is the mammalian immersion reflex).

Swimming history

Swimming has been practiced since time immemorial, and there is evidence of their knowledge in cave paintings over 7,000 years old. It is also mentioned in texts from later times, such as 2,000 BC. C .: the Odyssey, the Iliad, the Bible, etc.

However, the first book on swimming was written in 1538 and is credited to Nikolaus Wynmann, a German professor of languages: The swimmer or a dialogue in the art of swimming.

Importance of swimming

Swimming is much more than a sports practice, it is also a skill and a technique that on many occasions can represent the difference between life and death. A good swimmer is more likely to survive certain maritime accidents, or falls overboard from boats (if he is conscious and in full power).

On the other hand, swimming is one of the most popular sports practices in the world. Provides many benefits to the respiratory and circulatory system of the human being, as we will see later.

Swimming styles

swimming sport butterfly style
In the butterfly style both arms move forward together.

There are numerous styles of swimming, some personalized or little used, but generally there are four main styles, which are distinguished in competitions and are endorsed by the International Swimming Federation:

  • Chest or breaststroke style. Also known as “frog style”, since the human body is similar in movements to that of certain amphibians, it consists of floating face down with the arms pointing to the front and the legs slightly bent. The head is kept out of the water to take in air and then the arms move in a circle under the water, propelling the body forward as the movement is imitated with the feet, shrinking and stretching them at the same rate.
  • Front crawl or freestyle. This style requires the swimmer to be straight, lying on one arm that plunges straight into the water, while the other emerges with the elbow flexed and the palm extended down, ready to enter the water. The head leans sideways to take in air, which is expelled when the torso dips and turns to repeat the movement but with the other arm. Meanwhile, the legs move, relaxed, with the toes pointed and the feet inwards, giving oscillating kicks.
  • Back or back style. A style essentially similar to the crawl, but face up, with the back submerged in the water, moving one arm in the air with the palm of the hand coming out from under the leg, while the other propels the body in the water.
  • Butterfly style. A variation of the breaststroke or breaststroke style, in which both arms move together forward and backward under the water, propelling the torso forward, continuously and accompanied by an undulating movement of the hips, which dips the head when entering into the water and culminates with a kick called “dolphin” because of its similarity to the swimming of these animals, using the feet together.

Health benefits

Swimming has both physical and mental health benefits, since it is one of the most complete sports practices known, strengthening the almost complete muscles of the body and stimulating mental coordination and memory. The usual practice of swimming as an aerobic sport is known to help with:

  • Lowering blood pressure and burning fat, since the body must lose twice as many calories to stay warm: from the exercise carried out and from being submerged in a colder liquid.
  • Improves and strengthens the cardiac and vascular system, since it subjects the heart to a continuous and coordinated work with breathing, also increasing the athlete’s lung capacity.
  • Relax the muscles by mobilizing almost all the muscles of the body in a coordinated way, without fixed positions for too long.
  • To the lack impact like land sports, it allows the muscles to be strengthened without subjecting them to the stress of gravity.