By Inbound Pursuit

10 Ways Swimming Can Benefit Lung Health

When Amy Van Dyken was six years old, her doctor recommended swimming to manage her asthma better. Van Dyken began to enjoy swimming, and she was so good at it that she soon turned professional. She went on to win six Olympic gold medals for the USA.

Did swimming really help her overcome asthma? Can swimming help improve our lung function? The answer is mixed, but anecdotal evidence and the importance of regular exercise to support lung function suggest it's worth a try. It's also a lot kinder on the joints than going for a run. 

Plus, swimming supports your whole body, including your muscles and cardiovascular health. We're all for choosing habits that benefit your health in more ways than one! 

If you're ready to learn more about the potential benefits of swimming for lung (and overall!) health, read on! 

And just a note: before starting a new exercise routine, it's important to check in with your doctor. If and when you are ready for a swim, we're sharing a few of the ways a swim can benefit lung health. 

1. Increased lung capacity

As with any physical activity, the demand for oxygen increases as swimming forces our lungs to breathe quicker and harder. Over a period of time, consistently meeting this high demand during swimming can help increase lung capacityand improve oxygen efficiency in the body.

This is important, since it will not only make you a better swimmer, but will improve your lung and overall health, too. 

We'll talk more about how swimming increases lung capacity throughout this blog, since increased lung capacity is a crucial piece of overall breathing and respiration. 

2. Breath control and endurance

Unlike in running or cycling, in swimming, one cannot open mouth and inhale air as and when needed. The breaths have to be timed with the swimming strokes. Usually, swimmers breathe in when their head is outside water, and there is a tiny window of opportunity to take in a quick breath of air. This limitation forces our lungs to hold breath for a long time, supporting increased breath control and endurance.

This type of breathing is also unmatched in most other forms of physical activity, where it's easier to breathe uncontrolled, gasping in air whenever we need it. Instead, swimming encourages more control and allows your lungs to get better at holding in air for longer, resulting in better endurance. 

3. Stronger respiratory muscles

Regular swimming helps build a strong core and spine, and it also improves the posture and strengthens the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles. With age, as lung capacity starts decreasing, problems of breathlessness might increase with people suffering from lung conditions such as COPD. Recent research suggests pool-based exercise can strengthen respiratory muscles and help with the management and rehabilitation of the disease.

4. Improved posture and spine

Swimming helps in correcting our posture and improving the overall spine health in a few different ways.

First, it strengthens core muscles, including both your abs and lower back muscles, which all support the spine. It also balances muscle development, since swimming involves multiple strokes/movements that help balance muscle development throughout the body. When muscles are equally strong on both sides of the body (unfortunately not always the case!), they support the spine and improve posture.

Swimming also encourages spinal alignment, improves flexibility, and reduces pressure on joints, all of which help facilitate better posture. And since swimming increases better body awareness (to help with proper form and technique), it can improve body awareness. This can carry into other daily activities and encourage better posture when you're not in the pool, too.

And the benefits of better posture aren't limited to back pain. Bad posture has been known to restrict the body's ability to breathe correctly. A correct sitting and standing posture will help us breathe more air into our lungs.

5. Weight maintenance

Maintaining a healthy weight is helpful for lung health, since excess body weight can compress the chest and limit lung expansion. Since swimming is a form of cardiovascular exercise that can help you burn calories and build muscle, it can help you achieve (and maintain) a healthy weight. Just don't forget about eating a balanced diet, too.

And since swimming is low impact, it's accessible to a wide range of individuals, including those with joint problems. We consider that a win in our book! 

6. Reduces stress

Most of us know how harmful chronic stress can be for overall health, but sometimes it can be hard to figure out how to reduce stress levels. After all, modern life comes with lots of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. This stress can exacerbate existing respiratory problems. Aside from the fact that exercise in general is a helpful stress-reliever, swimming in particular can be quite calming and meditative, making it a great way to reduce stress levels. If you can decrease your stress levels, your respiratory muscles will relax, allowing your breath to flow more easily, with lung function improving in the process. 

7. The potential for a reduced risk of respiratory infections

This one has less to do with the swimming and more to do with where you swim. If you're swimming in a properly-maintained pool, you may lower your risk of respiratory infection, since the chlorine in pool water can help remove harmful bacteria and viruses from the air. In turn, this decreases your chances of inhaling harmful pathogens. Cleaner air contributes to healthier lungs, in more ways than one!

8. Supports controlled breathing

Since swimming is meditative and tends to force you to focus on rhythmic and controlled breathing. This type of breathing not only increases lung capacity, but will also teach you better breathing outside the pool. And controlled breathing helps your lung function in another way, too, by increasing the efficiency of the oxygen intake and carbon dioxide elimination that our lungs are crucial for.

9. Improved aerobic conditioning

 That's where exercise, like swimming, comes in! Since swimming uses large muscle groups, it increases your heart rate and requires your lungs to work harder to get oxygen to your muscles.

While it may seem counterintuitive, making your lungs work harder in the short term can actually be a good thing.

The sustained aerobic activity improves your fitness over time, making your heart better at pumping blood and your lungs better at the oxygen exchange we discussed in the previous section. As a result? Your lung capacity and overall respiratory function will improve over time. Talk about a win-win!

10. What about asthma?

Swimming is often recommended as a therapeutic exercise for people with asthma, based on the theory that breathing in warm moist air can help open up the airways and is less likely than other forms of exercise to trigger symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath. It is widely believed that swimming at an indoor pool is a better option than running outside, especially in winter, when you will be exposed to dry cold air and are more likely to exacerbate asthma symptoms.

review of the available evidence suggests that swimming induces less severe bronchoconstriction (contraction of the airway that restricts airflow) than other sports. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms behind this, however, as well as the potential for airway irritation related to chlorine in the pool.

As we talked about earlier, swimming also requires controlled breathing, taking slow and deep breaths and exhaling fully. This controlled breathing can also extend to asthma attacks, where managing breath effectively is extremely helpful. 

Swimming also encourages the respiratory system to work efficiently over an extended period. With consistency, this can increase lung capacity and improve breathing patterns, which can help those with asthma when they engage in other physical activities. 

As you can see, swimming offers a long list of potential benefits for lung health. Whether you're a competitive swimmer, a casual swimmer, or someone looking to try a new low-impact exercise, we hope we've given you some new reasons to continue (or to start!) loving swimming.

As always, it's our hope that by educating you about the 'why' behind different activities and habits, we'll make it easier for you to stick with new health-promoting activities long-term. If you read this and decide to give swimming a try, let us know! We'd love to hear about how swimming, or other healthy habits, have improved your lung health, your overall health, and your quality of life. 

Supplemental Support

If you're looking for more ways to support your lung health, our resB Lung Support is a great holistic tool that supports gut, lung, and immune health. It's an easy way to support whole body health each day. Combine your daily resB with activities like swimming and healthy eating and you've got yourself a winning combination!

resB was specifically developed by a team of physician-scientists, including ResBiotic's founder, Dr. Vivek Lal, based on years of research. It targets the gut-lung axis with a proprietary combination of clinically studied probiotic strains and anti-inflammatory herbs, scientifically engineered to support lung structure and a healthy inflammatory response.*

resB is the product of over a decade of research at the intersection of lung health and microbiome science. Our interdisciplinary team is pioneering products that target the gut-lung axis to transform the conversation around lung health.

You can learn more at

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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