When I was growing up, my parents insisted my brother and I take swimming lessons every spring before our summer vacation began. In fact, we weren’t permitted to stick a toe in the water, let alone go for a full-fledged dip, before we’d spent a few months worth of Saturday mornings dutifully working on our front and back crawl. While they hoped we would develop the skills and knowledge required to be safe and feel confident in and around the water, my brother and I got much more out of our time in swimming lessons than simply learning to stay afloat. So many of our childhood memories involve us swimming in the lake at our family’s cottage or of us playing in the surf at the local beach – I can’t begin to imagine how different a person I would be today if I didn’t have those experiences growing up, if I were nervous around water or hadn’t learned to swim.
And those skills, learned so long ago, were applied again as an adult when I decided I wanted to learn to surf and scuba dive. Being a strong swimmer gave me the confidence to take to the water and give those activities a try. Swimming is a skill I feel everyone should learn at some point in their lives but don’t just take it from me…here are three great reasons your kids should learn to swim:
1. It’s fun exercise: Swimming is an excellent way to get kids to enjoy physical fitness – the joy of splashing around in the water allows children to exercise without even knowing it. Water provides natural resistance, which will stimulate their muscles and help build strength. And since swimming involves the whole body, you can burn a great number of calories while doing it, making swimming very beneficial for kids who are struggling with their weight.
2. It builds self esteem: There is no doubt that a child’s confidence improves when they learn how to swim. Kids get the sense of achievement that comes with performing skills that once seemed impossible to them. They gain confidence in each new stroke they learn, each new skill they accomplish, each new badge they earn. Kids also apply the old adage ‘practice makes perfect’, as the skills used for swimming are primarily developed through repetition and regular practice.
3. It could save their life: Why is so much emphasis placed on staying safe around water? Unlike many animals that instinctively and naturally swim if suddenly dropped into the water, humans must learn how to survive in the water. According to the International Life Saving Federation, approximately 1.2 million people around the world die by drowning every year and more than 50 percent of those victims are children. There are perhaps eight to ten times that many who experience a drowning process but who reach safety alone or are rescued by their peers, by others or by lifesavers/lifeguards. Swimming and water survival skills are not difficult to learn though and children who know how to swim can not only save themselves when in water, but are far more equipped to recognize the inherent risks associated with activities in and around water (ie: safe boating practices, safe sun protection, etc).
Swimming produces a wide array of health and social benefits for kids. Registration is now open for Dalplex’s winter term swim lessons, which start in early January. Options exist for all ages and skill levels – from introductory lessons for pre-school aged kids to lifeguard training for teens. Dalplex even runs a Tiger Tots program to give parents the option to introduce their kids to the joys of swimming as young as 18 months.
Dalplex, Dalhousie University’s main fitness and recreation facility, has been proudly serving the community for over 30 years, offering a wide variety of fitness, wellness and recreation programs and classes for adults, children, youth and seniors. Visit their website or follow them on facebook.