Aquatics professionals have been touting the healthfulness of swimming for years, and now science confirms what they’ve been saying. In a groundbreaking study, researchers found male swimmers have a 50 percent lower risk of dying than runners, walkers and sedentary persons.
“As far as we know, this is the first study to look at
swimming relative to mortality, and we saw the lowest death rate
among the swimmers,” said study leader Dr. Steven Blair,
University of South
Carolina professor in exercise science.
His research team analyzed comprehensive physical exam results and
self-reported physical activity surveys from more than 40,000
white, educated and relatively
affluent men, ages 20 to 90. Data was collected over a span of 40
years from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study in Dallas.
“There are definite health benefits from swimming,” Dr.
Blair concluded. “It is very clear that it’s better
than being sedentary, but I’d still be reluctant to conclude
that swimming is better than running.” Overall, swimmers had
a higher cardiorespiratory fitness than walkers and sedentary
participants, but earlier comparisons indicated similar health
profiles for swimmers and runners, he noted.
Results were presented at the 2008 World Aquatic
Health Conference, and research was published in the International
Journal of Aquatic Research and Education. Both are
products of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, which also funded
Blair said the uniform nature of the study population limits the
ability to generalize results to women, and men of different
socioeconomic backgrounds. He plans to continue the research,
comparing injuries and possibly rates of chronic disease.