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Breakfast Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK
Early morning exercise could make you ill
Researchers who carried out tests on swimmers found those who trained at the start of the day were in danger of weakening their immune systems. They also found they:

  • had low levels of an antibody which fights infection, and
  • low rates of saliva flow, which is another way we protect ourselves from viruses.

    On Breakfast we spoke to David Sparkes from the Amateur Swimming Association. He said:
    "Any exercise is better than none."

    The research is very interesting, we shouldn't however leap to conclusions, it is a very small group that has been looked at. And we need much more work before we can accept this type of research. Our opinion is you do your exercise when you feel comfortable. Professional swimmers train in the morning as they have a big volume to get through. And any exercise is better than none.

    Read on to find out where, how, what equipment and the benefits you can gain from swimming.

    Swimming as a sport can be extremely informal or can involve serious training and competition in galas.

    Most swimming clubs cater for all age groups, and often seniors and masters swimmers will become involved in coaching or running of the club.

    Did you know?
    A ten and a half stone person swimming front crawl uses about 11 calories per minute - so 30 minutes' swimming will use up 330 calories.
    How seriously you take your training is your own choice. Highly competitive swimmers train 5-6 days a week, and may also carry out land-based sport-specific training. Other people may simply swim with a club once or twice a week and may never enter a competition.

    How do you do it?

    Most swimming pools have mother and toddler sessions, ladies-only sessions, lane-swimming sessions, and over-50s' swimming sessions. Most also have lessons for adult beginners and improvers as well as for children. Setting a goal to swim once a week will get you started - and swimming at the same time on the same day each week increases the likelihood of meeting the same people, so adding a social element.

    If swimming a length is too far to start with, swim widths, gradually building up the number of widths until you can swim the distance for a length. Once you can swim a length you can gradually build up the number of lengths you swim at each session, and then start to swim continuously for a set time.

    Where can you do it?

    Record-breaking calorie burning:
    Gertrude Caroline Ederle was the first woman to swim across the English Channel. On the 6th of August, 1926, she also set a new time record. She swam from Cape Gris-Nez, France, to Dover - a distance of 56 km (35 miles), in 14 hr 31 min. To swim the equivalent of this in a 25 metre swimming pool would be 2,240 lengths and would burn 9,581 calories!

    Lane-swimming sessions allow for those people who want to swim as a form of exercise rather than just playing in the pool.

    The pool is divided into lanes designated for fast, medium and slow swimmers so that people can choose to swim with others of similar standard.

    Swimming widths and jumping in and out is not allowed during these sessions.

    Swimming with other people increases motivation, and an advantage of swimming with a club is that the exercise/training session is defined by the coach - and it's likely that you will work harder and complete each full training session. Coaching sessions will also have drills to improve your stroke technique.


    Swimming improves the condition of the heart and lungs and works both upper and lower body muscles. To swim well a high degree of flexibility is needed, thus regular swimming will help to maintain flexibility - especially in the shoulder area.


  • A well-fitting pair of swimming goggles prevents the chlorine in the pool from damaging your eyes.
  • A swimming cap will keep your hair out of the way and reduce the amount of water streaming across your face when you lift your head to breathe. Some people also find a noseclip useful.
  • A pull buoy gives your legs extra buoyancy so that you can concentrate on arm technique.
  • Hand paddles increase the workload on the upper body so adding in a specific type of strength training.

    Here are a few ideas that you may want to consider to help make exercising more enjoyable:

  • Exercise with a friend at a pace that means you can still talk to each other.
  • Be active to music.
  • Choose to exercise in a beautiful place like a beach, a park or on a river bank.
  • Exercise whilst wearing clothes that make you feel good and in which you feel comfortable.
  • Vary your activity, so that you don't get bored. For example, if you normally exercise indoors, try an outdoor activity and vice-versa.
  • Try something that helps you 'find the child in you' again, like flying a kite or using a microscooter.

    Experts say from a health perspective, the important thing is that you are moving, that your heart is pumping blood at a slightly increased rate, and that you're using up calories to power your muscles.

    So choose activities that are fun and that you want to do, not those that you think you must do, as there is more chance that you will find time for them.

  • Physical inactivity is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease. In other words, if you don't exercise, you dramatically increase your risk of dying from a heart attack.
  • Being physically active has been shown to be positively associated with good mental health. It can help in the management of conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Obesity is on the increase in the UK, and part of the solution is physical activity. If you don't do enough exercise and you eat too much, you're going to get fat which can be dangerous to your health.
  • Exercise has also been shown to have a positive effect on a range of medical conditions including hypertension, diabetes and lower back pain.

    Doctors say to achieve these health benefits, it's recommended that people take 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (for example brisk walking) on 5 days of the week. That's 1.5% of the total time in a seven-day week - and for a priority like improving your health, it represents an excellent investment of time and effort.

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