The benefits of swimming are nearly endless. As the basic component of aquatic exercise, this activity offers a range of benefits, whether you think of yourself as a swimmer or not. It also happens to be one of the few activities that can be enjoyed by individuals or families from a very young age to a very old age. Whether you want to strengthen your lungs, heart or cardiovascular system, the physical movement of propelling your body through the water provides a healthy and fun option for everyday activities. Once you are in the pool, there is no doubt that swimming has a positive impact on your overall health, but what’s up in air is the overall impact this exercise has on the natural environment. Provided below is an analytical look at the all-around eco-friendliness of America’s underwater pastime. Below is an outline of what it takes to go from clothing and land to goggles and water.
Step 1: Getting there
Like most activities, unless you happen to live in the most convenient place, swimming is a recreational pursuit that requires getting to your destination: the pool (or any other body of water, for that matter). Unlike jogging, which can be done pretty much anywhere, swimming can only be done in certain places. Whether it’s a water park or lap lanes, the majority of people have to drive, carpool or rely on public transportation to get there… unless you’re close enough to ride a bike or walk, of course.
Verdict: Not (necessarily) so eco-friendly.
Step 2: Required gear
Swimming may be the only activity (in America at least) where it is still deemed somewhat appropriate to wear nothing but a Speedo. For the more competitively inclined athletes, these skivvies and a pair of goggles is all that’s needed for a workout. The alternative is a pair of swim trunks for males, and women have the standard decision between one- and two-piece swimsuits. But, all things considered, the material required is rather dismissible when compared to sports such as football, hockey, lacrosse or any other land-based exercise.
On the other hand, the pool itself is a green guru’s worst nightmare. The amount of energy needed to heat pools and the concoction of chemicals required to keep them clean and safe merits very strict guidelines to protect not only the environment, but also the people enjoying said facilities.
Verdict: “Greenness” of swimming gear does not make up for the taxing energy and chemical demands of the facility (unless it’s a “natural” pool like this one
Step 3: The activity itself
Here is where swimming takes the cake in a lot of ways. The physical strain on joints in swimming is really marginal when compared to land sports. This fact alone makes swimming a more feasible athletic endeavor for people worldwide than even running. Viewing through a green lens, however, puts playing in the water on an equal footing as any other cardiovascular exercise. Sure your heart, lungs and muscles all feel the positive effects of doing such an activity, but what’s really green about one in the pool versus one on land? Not much that I can see.
Verdict: Not applicable; no green implications.
Swimming can benefit any lifestyle, whether it is a trip to the local splash complex with wave pools and waterslides or a few torturous miles in a swimming lane. What it does not do, unfortunately, is help reverse the negative effects of human development, global warming, pollution or any other earth-harming trends.