University study: Head to the pool! Swimming can cut menís risk of dying in half
Make a splash!
Swimming cuts men’s risk of dying by about 50 percent compared with running, walking and not exercising, according to a study by Dr. Steven Blair, a researcher at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health.
Blair evaluated comprehensive physical exams and behavioral surveys from thousands of people who were enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) over the past 32 years.
The results, published recently in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, are good news for those who swim for exercise.
“Swimmers had the lowest death rate,” said Blair. “This is the first report that has examined mortality rates among swimmers in comparison with other types of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle. We conclude that men who swim for exercise have better survival rates than their sedentary peers.”
The study takes into account age, body mass index, smoking, alcohol intake, hypertension, other medical factors and family history. “These lower rates of death in swimmers compared with walkers and sedentary men might well be expected, but it is surprising that we also observed lower mortality in swimmers than in runners,” he said. “Swimming appears to be a healthful alternative to other types of physical activity.”
The study’s participants were white, well-educated men who were middle class to upper class.
But, Blair said, “There is no compelling reason to assume that the benefits of swimming would be different for women or for men in other socioeconomic groups. In an earlier study in this same population, we found that both women and men had similar benefits from swimming in terms of fitness and other health indicators.”
Blair also found that regular swimmers had higher cardio-respiratory fitness than walkers and sedentary people.
“Swimming provides a healthful alternative to traditional modes of exercise for improving cardio-respiratory fitness and health for the general population, as well as for patients suffering from chronic diseases,” he said. “Swimming may be a good alternative exercise for individuals who cannot participate in running or other forms of physical activity.”
Future research will compare injury information between swimming and other forms of physical activity, he said.
The ACLS includes extensive medical and physical activity data on more than 40,000 men, ages 20 - 90 years.