Swimming is not considered as a sport for bones because there are no impacts, and the whole load is obtained at the expense of muscles.
On the other hand, gravity does not prevent bones from lengthening. Apparently, is why the largest animals live in water. So under certain conditions, swimming will be irreplaceable.
Add additional weight
Animal studies have found an effect on growth when adding weight.1
The number of columns in the growth plate were higher in the swimming groups but reached statistical significance only for the LE group (with added weight).2
Try ankle weights with 1-2% of your body weight. This way, you will create more pressure on your bones through muscles.
Long-term swimming experience, especially in males, is associated with bone strengthening.3
Swim for an hour, 3-5 hours per week, throughout the entire period of active growth.
Combine with strength training
In water, you don’t have to fight against gravity, so in the long run, your bones may become fragile because of this.4
Use impact-loading and resistance exercises in conjunction with swimming to better stimulate mineral accumulation. Running and jumping are good choices.
To avoid excessive stress from training, start with small loads and gradually increase over time.
Snyder A, Zierath JR, Hawley JA, Sleeper MD, Craig BW. The effects of exercise mode, swimming vs. running, upon bone growth in the rapidly growing female rat. Mech Ageing Dev. 1992;66(1):59-69. doi: 10.1016/0047-6374(92)90073-m. ↩
Swissa-Sivan A, Simkin A, Leichter I, Nyska A, Nyska M, Statter M, Bivas A, Menczel J, Samueloff S. Effect of swimming on bone growth and development in young rats. Bone Miner. 1989 Sep;7(2):91-105. doi: 10.1016/0169-6009(89)90067-6. ↩
Gomez-Bruton, A., Montero-Marín, J., González-Agüero, A., García-Campayo, J., Moreno, L. A., Casajús, J. A., & Vicente-Rodríguez, G. (2016). The Effect of Swimming During Childhood and Adolescence on Bone Mineral Density: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 46(3), 365–379. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0427-3 ↩
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