March 28, 2012

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you look at a competitive swimmer, poised to jump in and slice through water with precise and seemingly effortless strokes of his hands?  “What a great, sexy looking physique?” is what that crossed your mind, right?  And yet, swimming can also make you fat.  Yes, that is what I said.  Swimming is one of the few exercises other than weight training that hits almost all the muscles and is one of the best exercise for the body.  Yet, you could be making a big mistake if you jump into the pool hoping to reduce your body weight and fat levels.

Let us analyse why some exercises are touted as fat burning and some other are not.  We have seen the Sumo Wrestling does not bring down body fat levels though the wrestlers engage in more than three hours of exercise every day.  But then, the other style of wrestling like the free style and the kind we see on WWF, where John Cena and Randy Orton scream at each other first before showing off their six pack and then engage in one of the most grueling clash of wrestling matches, do burn a lot of fat.    We have seen Dorian Yates and Jay Cutler workout less than one hour in the gym to sport one the best looking wash board abs ever but a tennis player spends more than two hours playing under the sun and come off with a physique which looks like he fell into cauldron of glue and it stuck uniformly all over him.  How is that they have the six pack but Sumos look like momos with the biggest ever mid section in the entire human world?

It is true that exercise uses up a lot of energy during the exercise session and much, afterwards too.  Exercises involving heavy lifting and a lot of rest in between do not stimulate the body well enough to burn fat but exercises that involve continuous movement such as foot ball match or long distance running stimulate the metabolism so much so that you continue to use a lot of energy long after you have stopped exercise.   Marathon runners consume anything upto 6000 calories with absolutely no fat or weight gain, while in Sumo wrestling, the training is mostly muscle and weight building in nature.  They do not workout long enough to stimulate the body into using body fat for energy.  It may be intense, but is usually over in minutes and is never long enough to stimulate metabolic pathways that use up your fat stores.   This is one of the reasons why Sumo wrestlers, power lifters and weight lifters sport a big waistline.   To make matters worse,  those who are intent on strength building place no restriction on how much food they should consume and this adds a lot of fat to their bulging, protruding belly.

So, it is the type of exercise that decides whether your body should utilize the fat stores or not.  But there is something about swimming that no other exercise has and that which decides whether you will gain fat or lose fat with swimming.  As you know, your body is willing to adjust to any command that you give it.  Can you imagine yourself balancing on a wheel that is only about two inches wide, but that is what your body helps you do when you try it out a few times.  I have always wondered what led man to believe that he may ever be able to balance himself on two thin wheels connected by a metal frame; the bicycle.  But the ingenuity of the body is such that it has changed something in you that has helped you balance yourself on a bicycle.  It is the same when you enter the swimming pool for the first ever time.  You splash about with your hands and legs, but to no avail.  You sink to the bottom before you can say jack, but a few days later you are able to stay afloat.  There is no way you could have learnt that by reading a book.  It is as though you were granted a wish that you cannot give to someone or help someone else with.

A few other changes also happen when you learn to swim.    Not only does the body help you with staying afloat, it also increases your body fat levels to help you swim and float.  Every being that lives in water has higher percentage of fat than those living on land.  One of the reason is that the fat actually makes your body more buoyant.   And how does the body increase the fat content of the body?  It simply makes you very hungry.  Have you noticed how hungry you are, after spending some time splashing about in water?  No other exercise can make you feel this way; not even heavy lifting.   The effect is immediate and very profound; you need to eat immediately after a swim.

More than ninety percent of the people give up swimming a few weeks after they have learned to swim and even those who stay longer,  do not exert themselves physically long and hard enough to stimulate the body into using fat for energy.   The result is an increase of body fat level.

And those who apply themselves wholeheartedly to becoming a good swimmer, shape up their body very well.  They spent about an hour swimming non stop, to and across the pool, making their body work hard, which stimulates metabolic pathways to use up fat stores for energy,  for hours after they have left the swimming pool.  Swimming is one exercise which uses all the muscles of the body and to build enough endurance to last about one hour of swimming in the pool calls for very intense and hard work.   Those who can break the lethargy, splash themselves to work up enough stamina to swim more than 20 laps in a 50 m long swimming pool, will eventually reap the benefit and carve themselves a great physique.  And those who spend an hour in water, but not even swim 2-3 laps non stop, will only get fatter and they deserve to be, as all lazy people do.


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