Study: swimming reduces the risk of death by 50%?

Swimming has become a trendy sporting activity in Ghana. Swimming is gradually becoming another important physical activity in Ghana.

In this article, I look at the scientific perspective of swimming on our health, as some studies have shown that swimming promotes healthy heart and lungs.

Some researchers even believe that swimming can reduce your risk of death. Juxtaposed with inactive people, swimmers have about half the risk of death. Some other studies have shown that swimming can help lower blood pressure and control blood sugar. Researchers have suggested that adults need 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.


This means that one can benefit from swimming.

Interestingly, an hour of swimming can be compared to running in terms of calories burned. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that swimming is the fourth most popular activity in the United States. They explained that this is due to its many health benefits.

Swimming, Science

Are Ghanaians aware of the scientific benefits of swimming?

Holistic body health

The article by Marcin, A (2017) found the following health benefits of swimming:

  • increases your heart rate without stressing your body
  • tones the muscles
  • build strength
  • builds stamina

Marcin, A (2017) also recommended the following strokes in swimming training:

  • breaststroke
  • backstroke
  • side kick
  • butterfly
  • freestyle

Each blow has its target, besides the water offers a gentle resistance. However, no matter what type of stroke you adopt, most muscles work together in the water.

Cardio support

Apart from the muscles that benefit when swimming. The cardiovascular system is also another area where swimming strengthens the heart and lungs. Interestingly, researchers believe that swimming lowers your risk of death, as advocated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) report. The report found that compared to inactive people, swimmers have approximately half the risk of death.

The study by Yuan et al. (2016) also found that swimming lowers blood pressure. Moreover, a similar well-conducted study by Connolly et al. (2016) also revealed that swimming controls blood sugar.


The CDC also reports that swimming exercises support arthritis sufferers because they improve the use of their arthritic joints without worsening symptoms. He further notes that people with rheumatoid arthritis showed more health improvements after participating in hydrotherapy (exercise in warm water) than with other activities. Water-based exercise can also improve the use of affected joints and decrease pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Marcin, A (2017) notes that swimming can be a safe exercise option for people with:

  • arthritis
  • wound
  • disability
  • other issues that make high-impact exercises difficult

Marcin further notes that swimming can even help reduce some of your pain or improve your recovery from injury. This corroborates a study by Alkatan al. (2016) which found that people with osteoarthritis reported significant reductions in joint pain and stiffness and experienced fewer physical limitations after engaging in activities such as swimming and cycling.

What interests me about this study is that the benefits of swimming exercise were similar to the most average prescribed for land cycling training. This means there was little to no difference in benefits between the two groups and whether you swim or cycle, the benefits remain the same.

It also supports multiple sclerosis. The reason why those who have multiple sclerosis (MS) seem to benefit from swimming is that the water makes the limbs float, thereby supporting the legs when swimming. Water also provides gentle resistance. In a study by Castro-Sánchez et al. (2012), where a 20-week swimming program was evaluated, researchers found improved pain reduction in people with MS. Participants further demonstrated an improved quality of life care.

Support asthma

Marcin, A(2017) found that the humid environment of indoor pools is ideal for making swimming a great activity for people with asthma.

This was confirmed by an earlier study by Sable et al. (2012) who found that breathing exercises associated with sport, such as holding the breath, can help you develop your lung capacity and take control of your breathing.

Moreover, a negative study of Fisk et al. (2015) found that swimming may increase your risk of asthma due to the chemicals used to treat swimming pools. Asthmatics are therefore advised to exercise caution if they decide to take up indoor swimming. Alternatively, Marcin, A(20170) recommends a pool that uses salt water instead of chlorine.

burn calories

Swimming is an effective way to burn calories. The Mayo Clinic estimated that a 160-pound person would burn approximately 423 calories one hour doing lengths at a light or moderate pace.

Interestingly, this same person can burn up to 715 calories per hour swimming at a more vigorous pace. A 200-pound person doing the same activities would burn between 528 and 892 calories per hour. A 240-pound person could burn between 632 and 1,068.

Marcin, A (2017) has this to say: “To compare these numbers to other popular low impact activities, that same 160 pound person would only burn about 314 calories walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 60 minutes. Yoga might only burn 183 calories per hour. And the elliptical might only burn 365 calories in an hour.”

Better sleep, mood and stress support

Swimming relieves stress-photo by Nairaland

A better sleep pattern has been reported when swimming. This was confirmed in a study by Reid et al. (2010) which involved older people with insomnia. The older adult saw an improvement in his quality of life and sleep after engaging in regular aerobic exercise. This is good news for older people who have trouble sleeping and who also know how to swim.

For mood or mental support, a clinical trial of Neville et al. (2014) looked at a small group of people with dementia and found improvements in mood after participating in a 12-week aquatic program. On the stress side, a study in 2015 was published in the International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health where researchers interrogates a group of swimmers instantly before and after swimming at a YMCA in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Of the 101 people surveyed, 44 said they were mildly depressed and felt stress from the hectic life. After swimming, the number of people who said they still felt stressed fell to just eight. The researchers conclude that swimming is a potentially powerful way to quickly relieve stress.


The benefits of swimming also extend to pregnant women and their babies. Marcin, A (2017) notes that in animals, the swimming of a mother rat has been shown to alter the brain development of her offspring. It may even protect babies against a type of neurological problem called hypoxia-ischemia, but more research is needed. The author further argued that apart from the impact of swimming on the child, it can be done in all three trimesters.

This has been demonstrated in a study by Juhlet al. (2010) who found that there are no side effects to swimming in chlorinated pools for pregnant women. Marcin, A (2017) explained, “In fact, pregnant women who swam from early to mid-pregnancy had a lower risk of preterm labor and birth defects.” Despite this, the author further warned:

“Keep in mind that although swimming is generally considered safe during pregnancy, some women may have activity restrictions due to complications during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor before starting any new exercise program during pregnancy, and if you have complications, ask about safe activities”. Is swimming good for children? The CDC (2022) explained that children need a minimum of 60 minutes aerobic exercise every day and swimming is a good option for them.

The CDC(2022) recommends that children need a minimum of 60 minutes aerobic exercise every day and swimming is a good option for them.

Bring back home

Swimming is another good form of naturopathic protocol that can holistically impact your health. For these swimmers, the science is clear for you to swim more. For those considering swimming for the benefits, myself included: we can start somewhere by getting a swim lesson coach.

We must obey the rules of the pool, whether they are experienced or not. Although generally safe, for people with injuries or certain medical conditions, always confirm with your doctor. Marcin, A (2017) also explained that people with skin conditions like psoriasisfor example, can get more irritated in chlorinated swimming pool water. It is best to seek medical advice first.


Professor Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes and medical associations to back up his articles. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as medical advice for treatment. My goal is to educate the public about scientific, evidence-based naturopathic therapies.

The author is Professor of Naturopathic Health Care and President of Nyarkotey University College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation. Email: [email protected]