Often called underwater ballet, this elegant sport requires more strength than one would assume. Imagine a gymnastic dance routine done in a pool. In the deep end. Underwater. While wearing full makeup. The origins of the sport date back to 1924, when a group of Canadian women, led by water polo player and diver, Margaret Seller, developed what they called ‘ornamental swimming’ from lifesaving and swimming techniques. Within a year, rules were established and the first competitions were organised. Every 4 years, during the olympics, we watch graceful women perform choreographed underwater routines to music. Cool fact: synchronized swimming is one of only two sports with only female competitors (the other is rhythmic gymnastics!)
Here are Health Fitness Revolution’s Top 10 Health Benefits of Synchronized Swimming:
- Works the Brain: Anytime there is a routine to be memorized, the brain is working to remember and retain it. Keeping the brain active is a key component to both creating new neural pathways and keeping the existing ones healthy.
- Flexibility: Studies show that synchronized swimmer rank only second to gymnasts in flexibility. Many of the moves and routines required of these women make them ultra-flexible.
- Increased aerobic capacity: tests also show that synchronized swimmers rank only second to long distance runners in aerobic capacity. Extended periods of breathe holding while being active contribute to this.
- Increased lung capacity: most synchro swimmers can hold their breathe for 3 minutes, although most routines only require them to hold it for 1 minute at a time.
- Increased Stamina: although the routines look effortless, the conditioning of the competitors is extreme. Once in the water, swimmers are confined to a 12 meter-by-12 meter competition area that is at least nine feet deep and touching the bottom of the pool is off-limits- competitors must continuously tread water in an eggbeater fashion to free up the arms and make the illusion that they are comfortably standing.
- Supreme endurance: Synchronized swimmers spend six days per week honing their craft, and upwards of eight hours per day: six in the pool and two hours on land cross training. This is more training than most other Olympic athletes.
- Increased muscular strength: routines incorporate a series of twists, pointed toes, splits, lifts, and more. In addition to constantly treading water while performing gravity defying moves, keep in mind that when teammates lift one another, they are not touching the pool bottom! That is some super core strength!
- Increased discipline: synchro swimming must have the discipline to train, keep afloat, keep their eyes open the entire routine (both underwater and above), and work together. This teaches all the fundamentals for being successful both inside the pool and in life.
- Increased confidence and team building: competing in a group builds camaraderie and self-esteem in every competitor.
- Good for emotional and psychological health: The endorphins that the body created during all physical activity is good for depression, mood, and psychological health.