Category

swimming

Swimming on prescription?

By | children's health, fun for children, Safety, swimming

Swim England tell us why it should be and Vicki Bates from the little swim school thinks she agrees!

Ahead of this year’s World Health Day on April 7th, Swim England launched their #LoveSwimming Campaign to ask doctors to prescribe swimming more often to help long-term medical conditions, backing up their campaign with real life examples of people whose lives have been transformed by being prescribed swimming!

Wanda says she was feeling like an old lady before she was forty with asthma, arthritis and back pain. She described her life as planning around her medical conditions until her physiotherapist suggested swimming. In the short Swim England film Wanda says “It’s been absolutely life changing for me and my whole life is easier than it used to be – I totally feel that I have claimed my life back”.

Steve’s physical health was appalling – he was massively overweight and had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but still did nothing about it. He then had a stroke and that, he says, changed his life. He started swimming and realised his fears about people looking and pointing at him weren’t necessary as they weren’t looking or pointing! Steve said “The benefits of swimming – physically, mentally and socially are massive – the exercise I’ve found that works for me is swimming.”

Paul suffered from constant back pain as a result of working long hours, sitting in a chair – often for 12 hours at a time. He managed his pain with painkillers but then looked for an alternative and saw a physiotherapist who recommended swimming. He literally built up from one length to 40 and says “The further I go, the better I feel afterwards – I feel as if I’ve had some type of internal massage – for hours I feel as if I had no pain at all – for whole days – I love swimming!”

These inspirational stories show what an amazing tool swimming can be in recovery from serious illness and aches and pains, as well as for the many other health benefits it delivers; fitness levels, weight loss, feelings of wellbeing and mental health benefits, to name but a few.

Swim England go on to say that the current Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has called for a ‘culture shift’ and for medical professionals to act on the evidence that activity, such as swimming, can cut the risk of illness and boost survival from major disease.

Elaine McNish, Head of Health and Wellbeing at Swim England said: “Swimming is an ideal activity which can help people manage a range of medical conditions and we are calling on the medical profession to consider recommending swimming to people who would benefit from improved physical health.”

I’m not sure if it’s me getting older but I think over the past few years, as a nation, we are waking up to the realisation that if we want to live long healthy lives, we need to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally. Some of the medical profession also appear to be moving towards the more progressive idea of prevention rather than cure and alternative therapies rather than the constant prescription of drugs that just relieve the symptoms, but don’t help the actual condition. I have a bad lower back and after years of taking care and being over-careful, I have started to build up the muscles around my back – swimming along with weight training have helped me to feel better now than I have felt in a long time. I’m lucky, running a swim school means I know the many benefits of swimming but I really agree with Swim England that if doctors prescribed swimming for relevant conditions – physical and mental, we would definitely be a healthier nation.

I have mentioned many times the multiple benefits of swimming and this just adds another reason as to why, as a parent, you should encourage your little one to love the water and take them swimming or to lessons that teach them water confidence, water safety and swimming skills. It has been shown in many studies that if children are physically active with sports like swimming when they are younger, they are more likely to be fit and healthy as adults. Even if your little one doesn’t continue swimming as an adult, they will have the skills to fall back on if they ever need them in later life. I say teach your little one to swim – for now and the future – for safety and long-term health – it’s all pros and no cons!

If you want more information on preschool swimming, do visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk call us on 01273 207992 or email info@thelittleswimschool.co.uk

swimming south of england

Swimming- your lifelong friend!

By | children's health, fun for children, Health, swimming

In the 15 years that I have been running the little swim school, I have written many articles and spent many hours thinking about swimming! While thinking about this article I realised that much has changed in that time – in terms of swimming and in my life as my children have been growing up and we have all been getting older!

One main thing is the increase in the number of babies and toddlers swimming and the realisation of why it is so good for them to start their relationship with swimming literally from birth – although some would say they spend nine months in amniotic fluid so that relationship has already begun and being in water is the most natural thing for them!

The benefits of baby swimming are well-known now; so much so that we have parents of one year olds asking us if it’s too late to start them swimming! Of course, it is never too late to start swimming but there are real benefits for your baby literally from birth! Although most of our brain cells are formed before birth, most of the connections between them are formed in infancy and the toddler years and research from Queensland University in 2014 showed that the movements of swimming activate both hemispheres of the brain and all four lobes of the brain simultaneously – resulting in heightened cognitive behaviours and ease of learning.Interestingly, another study from Australia showed the cognitive benefits increased when in warm water!

Once babies become toddlers, learning water safety and water confidence have huge potentially lifesaving benefits and toddlers also get loads from the social aspect of the lessons and the learning – as well as swimming there are numbers, letters, games and listening skills, to name a few.

From starting school to well into their teens swimming is great for lifesaving and a social activity but also for keeping children fit and active – especially as when children move into secondary school they tend to reduce activities and increase screen time. Mental health is also really important in these years and exercise can be a great benefit. Lots of recent studies have shown that open water swimming is good for our mental health and is becoming more and more popular. I am lucky to live in Brighton and have found myself swimming in the sea more frequently. I managed to get to October last year in a costume and have plans to use a wetsuit this winter and see how far I can go – it is hard to get in but you really do feel amazing afterwards!

Swimming is often hugely beneficial for children with disabilities of all levels. My daughter was diagnosed with mild scoliosis when she was about 11; one of the best things to do for this is spine lengthening exercise and swimming offers the perfect opportunity. Over the years at the swim school we have had children with many disabilities who have been told to swim by their doctors or specialists.

As children grow swimming is a fantastic thing to do as a family. Now that our children are older, our family spends hours together in the sea on holiday snorkelling, diving and swimming. Many fond memories from our holidays are of us all as a family in the sea!

Even if you don’t fancy swimming as a hobby and haven’t swum much for many years, there are many reasons you might want or need to take it up again. Swimming is great as a solo exercise, but many runners, cyclists and other athletes swim to gain muscle and help them in their chosen sports. And if your goal is weight loss swimming is also a great tool – it burns calories, builds muscle and can be done by larger people with mobility issues.

As we go through life, some of us develop bad backs, osteo-arthritis and all manner of ailments; we need to keep fit and often can’t do the things we used to. I have had a bad back for years and was told not to do any ‘impact’ exercise and even though I hadn’t been a regular pool swimmer for a long time, if I swim twice a week and do Pilates, my back behaves! Swimming allows you to do resistance and cardio training with little or no impact on your spine – I don’t think you will ever hear an osteopath of physiotherapist tell you not to swim! Dr Don Duff from Balanced Back says: “Whenever a patient asks ‘Is swimming good for back pain?’, my answer is always a resounding ‘absolutely! Not only does it have a positive effect on your overall health, but also it’s been shown to be one of the most useful exercise programs for people suffering from lower back pain.’”

As we age, we can end up with more and more limitations on our exercise, but being in water and swimming is one thing we can literally do forever – at one of the lovely, warm, private pools we use, the owner runs aqua fit classes and some of her customers are in their nineties. It helps keep older people fit and active, and again, it is a social thing too.

As you can see, I’m sold on swimming! I suggest that if you haven’t already, introduce your little one to swimming and what could be a lovely relationship that benefits them in so many ways, throughout their lives.

If you want information about baby, toddler and pre-school swimming visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk or
call us on 01273 207992.

Articles to check out:
Information on swimming benefits in Coach Magazine –www.coachmag.co.uk/sport/swimming
Information on swimming and back pain –
www.balancedback.com/blog/is-swimming-good-for-back-pain

Swimming with babies

By | Education, Safety, Sport, swimming, Uncategorized
by Fiona Edwards
Little Dippers

Baby swimming has become increasingly popular over the last 10 years and with good reason. As one of the first activities you can do with your new baby it not only gives you special one on one time with your baby, but also imparts your baby with a skill for life.

But taking that first step into the pool with your baby definitely comes with its fair share of questions and nerves. What if they get cold? What if they cry? What about their ears? Rest assured your babies are so much more adaptable than you realise and swimming is a completely natural progression for them having spent nine months in the fluid environment of the womb.
What’s more, babies are born with a natural dive reflex action which means they are already fully equipped to go underwater. It is truly amazing to see your baby dive underwater for the first time and come up again completely unfazed!

Safety
One of the first considerations for going baby swimming must be safety. With drowning still the third most common cause of accidental death in children, learning to swim must surely be a priority for all parents. Teaching your baby key water safety techniques and confidence in the water will give them skills that, if they should ever fall into a pool, lake, pond or even the bath, will mean that they won’t panic and can utilise the skills that they have learnt – which could potentially save their life.

Bonding
Baby swimming is a great way to spend special one on one time with your little one away from the intrusions of everyday life. This is a time when you can truly focus on just you and your baby. Plus the added benefits of skin on skin contact can help to regulate baby’s heart rate and breathing as well as making them feel secure. For mums, it can release hormones to help with breastfeeding and build the nurturing instincts. It’s also a great way for dads to get involved and enjoy special bonding time.

Physical and physiological benefits
The buoyancy of the water enables babies to use muscles they could never use on land and they love the sense of freedom to kick freely. Despite looking gentle, swimming is great exercise for your baby, helping to strengthen their heart, lungs and respiratory capacity which in turn aids the development of the brain.

In fact, the exercises taught in baby swim classes, kicking, reaching, learning and responding to commands, provide the perfect stimulation for your baby’s brain and helps to develop their cognitive skills and hand/eye co-ordination. It has also been proven that the combination of activities in the pool strengthens nerve pathways between the two sides of the brain, helping to store and retrieve information more effectively. All good for future learning!

What’s more, regular swimming can improve your child’s eating and sleeping patterns – surely a bonus for everyone!

Fun for all the family Swimming is great exercise for all the family and is something you can enjoy together even when babies are very little.

Parents’ confidence
Don’t worry if you are not confident in the water yourself, most baby swim classes take place in shallow pools and don’t require you to do much more than hold your baby. However nervous you may be feeling make sure you try to remain calm and keep a big smile on your face as your baby will pick up any apprehension that you may feel. It’s amazing watching parents’ confidence grow as they watch their babies thrive in the water.

Meet new friends
Besides learning key survival skills swimming is fun! Singing songs, splashing around, blowing bubbles and playing games, it’s an easy way for parents to get involved and meet new friends along the way. It’s best to go somewhere with small groups so that everyone can get to know each other and your baby will respond to other babies in the group and enjoy the clapping and splashing.

A few things to think about before you go swimming
You can start swimming with your baby from birth although most parents tend to wait until their baby is around six to eight weeks. Contrary to popular belief, babies do not need to have had their immunisations before coming to a pool.

It is best to book a course of baby swimming classes before you take your baby to the pool on your own, so that you can learn how to hold your baby
and exercises that you can practise with them. Smaller classes with groups of around six or seven in private pools provide a calmer quieter environment for you and your baby. Try to find warm water pools; babies can’t regulate their temperature so look for classes that take place in pools ideally heated to around 32 -34O C.

Before choosing a class think about your baby’s feed and nap times. A tired or hungry baby won’t enjoy their class and give yourself plenty of time to get to your class and get changed. It’s amazing how much longer everything takes with a baby in tow and you don’t want to start your class flustered and stressed.
You can help prepare your baby for lessons by having fun in the bath splashing, grasping toys and singing songs.

With all these benefits surely it’s worth taking the plunge!

Little Dippers have been teaching babies to love the water for 25 years.
Classes in lovely warm water pools in the North Laine and Patcham in Brighton with free drop in sessions.
Free trial available to book.
For more details check our website www.littledippers.co.uk or call 01273 229 390

The sun has got his hat on – and so should your child

By | baby health, children's health, Education, family, Health, Safety, Summer, swimming

When protecting children from harmful rays, clothing is just as important as sunscreen, say dermatologists at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley.

Putting sunscreen on children is one of those chores that can bring a cloud to an otherwise sunny day. A familiar sight on a beach is a parent restraining a child with one hand and quickly rubbing cream in before their ‘little prisoner’ breaks free to head once more into the water.

They won’t thank you now but protecting your child from the sun’s harmful rays could prevent them from having skin cancer when they are in their 30s – and struggling to apply sun cream to their own children.

But parents forget how vital clothing can be. Long sleeved tops, wide brimmed hats and special UV protective swim
wear are easy to put on as part of getting dressed to go out for the day, and often tick a box with the fashion-conscious child. Synthetic fabrics are better than cotton as the weave is not as loose. Hold the material up to the light to see how much filters through and choose clothing with a tight weave. Dark colours such as reds, blues or greens are more effective at blocking sun rays than white, light or pastels – and have the added bonus of making it easier to spot your child on a crowded beach or park.

Even on warm but overcast days, the UV rays can still penetrate through clouds, so continue to protect your child with clothing and sunscreen. And encourage them to cover up or play in the shade during the peak times between midday and 3pm when the sun is at its most harmful.

Children naturally have more exposure to sun as they are more likely to be running around outdoors partially clothed and in and out of water. Trying to re-apply sunscreen every two hours may not always be practical, so clothing can be a parent’s biggest ally. Add a good sunblock and shade, and you will be giving your child a very precious gift that will last a lifetime – that of reducing their risk of skin cancer in later life.

Children can be ‘slippery fish’ when it comes to applying sunscreen. Reduce the stress for you and them by trying these top tips:
• Make putting on sunscreen a natural part of the preparations for going to the park or the beach. If it becomes a ritual, like brushing teeth, children will be more accepting.
• Make it family fun – help each other to apply sunscreen in front of a mirror so you can see which bits you’ve missed.
• Don’t leave it to the last minute to apply sunscreen – as soon as they see the water or playground you will have a battle on your hands. Instead, apply sunscreen before you leave the house. Sunscreen works best after half an hour anyway.
• Time reapplications with a snack or treat for distraction.
• A squirming toddler? Then apply as much as you can while the child is strapped in their buggy or car seat.
• For quick reapplications, use a spray, but avoid eyes and mouths and encourage your child to hold their breath while you apply it. Or invest in a roll-on sunscreen so children can do it themselves.

Did you know?
UV light can penetrate car windows so invest in a stick-on UV protection screen. And certain medication, such as antibiotics or malaria tablets, may make your child’s skin more susceptible to the sun’s rays.

What sunscreen to choose:
Look for a sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection. An SPF of 30 or more with a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars is a good standard of sun protection for children. Opt for water-resistant creams if your child is
a water baby.

Babies and sun:
Babies under six months old shouldn’t be exposed to sun
at all at this age as their skin burns more easily. When outdoors, always put a baby in the shade with a parasol and fully covered in clothes, with
a wide brimmed hat.

Banishing the misery of prickly heat:
Prickly heat usually appears as tiny bumps on the neck, chest, shoulders and back and is caused when sweat gets trapped under the skin blocking pores or sweat ducts. Babies and small children are prone to prickly heat. The rash usually disappears after a few days but ease symptoms by giving your child a cooling bath and keep away from the sun. Dress them in loose cotton clothing and encourage them to drink plenty of water. If your child is prone to prickly heat, give them an antihistamine half hour before you head outdoors.

Eczema and sunscreen:
Finding an SPF sunscreen for eczema prone skin can be a challenge. There are plenty of ultra-sensitive sunscreens on the market, which are free from perfume and parabens – preservatives used to stop sun cream going mouldy which can aggravate eczema.

If you are using a product for the first time, test it first by putting a small amount to the pulse of your child’s wrist or the crook of their elbow. Don’t wash that area for 24 – 48 hours and watch for any allergic reaction such as redness or a rash.

Advice from Dr Sandeep Cliff and Dr Noreen Cowley, consultant dermatologists at the Spire Gatwick Park Hospital.
Call 01293 778 906 or visit www.spiregatwick.com

Why we love baby, toddler and preschool swimming

By | children's health, Health, Sport, swimming

  – read this and you’ll be in the pool before you get to the end!

by Vicki Bates
the little swim school

My journey with swimming started when one of my best friends, Briony, who now runs Wet Wet Wet swim school told me that I had to take my three month old baby daughter to Little Dippers – no ifs, no buts, I had to. Now, she can be a bit bossy at times, but this was insistent – she didn’t really talk about it in terms of benefits (well, apart from the sleeping baby afterwards) more what an amazing experience it was. Anyway, we went and from the first lesson I was hooked – Coco loved the water, I loved the fact it was warm and even more I loved the half hour of just focusing on my baby – no phones or daily life distractions. After a while I started working for Little Dippers and became even more amazed when I learnt about the myriad of benefits of baby and preschool swimming. I then started the little swim school, and for over thirteen years now have continued to love being part of this amazing experience.

The benefits are well documented now, but I never miss a chance to quickly re-cap in case it encourages a few more people to try it. The biggest and most obvious reason is water safety and literal life-saving training. I will never forget the first time I saw a toddler fall into the pool, turn round, swim to the side and climb out exactly as she had been taught in her lessons. I couldn’t believe it and this is all the more amazing when put into context with current ASA research, documented recently in the Guardian, showing that 45% of 11 year olds still leave primary school unable to swim. I know there is a huge call for schools and the government to do more – recently supported by Prince William, but it’s such a positive move to take your child to swimming lessons – and even if you can’t afford to join lessons, take them swimming yourselves. To be part of teaching a child skills that could save their life, or the life of another is truly special.

Other benefits include physical fitness – many of our children are now classed as obese, and with many under twos using digital gadgets on a daily basis, we need to make sure that we do all we can to encourage our children to be physically fit.

Studies have shown that if good habits and attitudes to physical exercise are started in early life they are much more likely to be carried on into teenage and adult life. As a parent of a teenager and an eleven year old I see first-hand how sedentary some children now are and always encourage mine to move as much as they can – they are both still very physically active with hobbies they started before they were three, so preschool really is a good time to start good habits.

Swimming is also good for brain development with research from Newcastle University showing that swimming lessons increased children’s maths’ grades and other research has shown that although most of our brain cells are formed before birth, the majority of the connections between these cells are made in infancy and the toddler years.

Over the years our customers have also told us how swimming lessons have also helped their children’s confidence, social and friend-making skills and sleep; we love it every time we get a good review or a happy parent on the phone – an excited parent whose water adverse child has turned the corner and is nearly swimming or whose water baby has been snorkelling at the age of two and now swims unaided! It makes us really happy and feel really lucky to be a part of something so special. Our teachers often tell us the same so I asked a few of them to put in to words why they love being a preschool swimming teacher and from the responses it seems like it is one of the best jobs in the world!

Hayley: “I have been teaching preschool swimming – parent and baby – for over six years now, and I never get tired of watching swimmers achieving their goals and knowing that I had a part to play in the process. The smiles on the children’s (and parents) faces when they swim for the first time is priceless and something that you don’t get in every job. I love making the children laugh and encouraging them to try skills for the first time – growing in confidence. This is the most rewarding job I have ever had and I don’t think I would find anything else that comes close!”

Jo: “This is very hard, so many reasons…In particular I enjoy a child who is petrified of water and working out a system where they can become comfortable within the pool environment and then progress them to swimming. I like seeing how much the children enjoy the activities we plan, when it goes well. I enjoy seeing the parents’ face the first time a child swims a distance on their own or jumps in for the first time. It’s amazing how quickly children develop amazing skills within the water if you manage to explain it just right so they understand what they have to do and if they can’t get it, working out a different way to explain it.”

Rachel: “Here’s why I love my job – I have always been a passionate swimmer and I really wanted to pass on my love of the water to children, and teach them to be safe too. I never quite realised how rewarding this could be until I started with a group of swimmers at the age of 12 to 13 months old and watched them develop into competent and safe swimmers. I am a big kid myself, so find that by making lessons fun, as well as progressive, you can really grab the children’s attention and they learn through playing in the water. I feel very lucky to have this job!”

Well, if you haven’t dashed off to the pool yet and you want any information about baby, toddler and preschool swimming or to book some lessons, do call us at the little swim school on 01273 207992 or visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk