The health benefits of swimming are widely known. Whether you want to feel stronger and healthier, relax and reduce stress or burn those calories, it's a great all round exercise. With October being National Cholesterol Month, we thought we'd take a look at how swimming and eating more healthily can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Coronary heart disease is caused when your heart's blood supply is blocked by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries. Adopting an active lifestyle and swimming can significantly reduce the risks. Even if you swim for 30 minutes three times a week, you can reduce your blood pressure level. Swimming will also help you burn fat which will help reduce cholesterol. In addition, swimming can also raise the good cholesterol and boost your metabolism. What's more 30 minutes in the pool is the equivalent to 45 minutes exercise on land and you could burn up to 500 calories an hour!
Choosing a healthy diet that's low in saturated fat will help keep your cholesterol levels lower. Heart UK recommends you include these six super foods in your diet which are known to further reduce cholesterol levels.
Soya foods - the special proteins in soya also appear to influence how the body regulates cholesterol with studies showing you can lower your cholesterol by around 6% with as little as 15g of soya protein. Nuts - rich in vegetable protein, fibre and unsaturated fats, a handful of nuts has the potential to lower cholesterol by 5%. Oats and barley - rich in a form of soluble fibre, once eaten the beta glucan becomes a gel which helps bind cholesterol in the intestines and prevent it from being absorbed.
Foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols - these have been known to reduce cholesterol for some time. Naturally found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, the recommended intake is 1.5-2.4g plant sterols/stanols every day. Fruit and vegetables - all fruit and veg reduces helps to keep saturated fat intake low. Try to have at least one pulse (beans, peas, lentils) everyday. Other rich sources of soluble fibre include sweet potato, aubergine, okra (ladies finger), broccoli, apples, strawberry and prunes. Foods rich in unsaturated fats - keeping our daily intake of saturated fats down (less than 20g for women and 30g for men), is essential for lowering cholesterol. Saturated fats can be replaced by unsaturated fats found in olives, sunflower, corn, rapeseed and other vegetable, nut and seed oils.
To find out more about #NationalCholesterolMonth, head over to Heart UK. You can join their Great Cholesterol Challenge and do the NHS heart age test here. If you'd like to start swimming more regularly, check out this post which features six videos to help you perfect your strokes.