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swimming

Why swimming should be the top priority for your child after lockdown

By | children's health, family, fun for children, Mental health, swimming
by Eri Coles
Sports Generation

The recent lockdowns have resulted in a significant decrease in physical activity levels among children. Sport England’s latest study shows that 31.3% of children and young people in England do less than an average 30 minutes a day of sport or physical activity. That is an increase of 2.4% from the previous year, bringing the total number of less active children to 2.3 million. There are countless activities children can get back to after lockdown, but we strongly believe swimming should take priority over other extra-curricular activities for every child. Read on to find out our reasons.

1. Swimming can save lives
Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide with the highest rates of drowning among children of one to four years, followed by children of five to nine years. Therefore, swimming is a life skill that everyone should acquire from a young age. Even before the pandemic, 23% of children were leaving primary school unable to swim 25 metres unaided and one in five cannot self-rescue, despite swimming being on the national curriculum. With regular swimming lessons, children learn how to stay safe in and around water – something you cannot learn by reading a book or watching YouTube!

2. Swimming helps to build a stronger body
Swimming is a perfect sport for improving overall health and fitness as you move most of your muscle groups against the resistance of water. Because it is full-body workout, it helps to tone muscles and build core strengths far more effectively than any other sports. Swimming increases heart rates without putting stress on the body, therefore it is also beneficial for building cardiovascular strength. In addition, swimming helps to expand lung capacity and improve breathing control which is valuable for everyone but especially for asthma sufferers. These are reasons why many children who swim regularly tend to be good at other sports as well.

3. Swimming is a mood booster
There is increasing concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people’s mental health. Data now conclusively indicates a substantial overall worsening of mental health in children and young people during the pandemic compared to previous years, according to the APPG’s latest report. Some children find it more difficult to express their emotions or share their thoughts verbally with others and therefore it is important to keep them active and provide enjoyment whilst doing so. So, how can swimming improve your child’s mental health? Swimming naturally reduces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline whilst simultaneously creating endorphins, the hormones that make you feel happy and increase positivity. The breathing patterns and rhythmic movements created with swimming can be meditative. Another study shows that swimming can reverse damage to the brain from stress through a process called hippocampal neurogenesis. We have seen time after time anxious or fidgety children leave swimming lessons calmer and more relaxed.

4. Swimming can make your child smarter
Studies carried out by Fusion Lifestyle and Griffith University reveal regular swimmers are lengths ahead in school than non-swimmers. When it comes to classroom-based subjects such as maths, English and science, children who frequently take swimming lessons are more likely to perform above average:
• Children who have taken swimming lessons enjoy reading more and are more likely to read outside of school.
• Children can better recite their times tables, with 39% of swimmers able to recite their five times table vs only 28% of non-swimmers.

This is down to several factors:
• A child who swims after school has busy weeks, meaning they are disciplined with their time. It is natural they would apply this time-management to their studies.
• It develops focus in children, showing you must work hard and consistently to achieve your goals.

We all find it that little bit easier to work hard when we have something positive to look forward to – like swimming in a warm pool!

5. Swimming builds self-confidence
Swim England’s research has revealed that seven to 16-year-olds who swim rated a higher feeling of life being worthwhile compared to those who don’t. Swimmers are, on average, 2.5% more confident than non-swimmers. Girls who swim have considerably higher increases in wellbeing, health and self-confidence compared to boys.

As you can see, swimming is one of the best and most valuable activities out there for your children, and with this skill it would open doors
to other opportunities later in their lives. It is a true worthwhile investment for your children.

Sports Generation offer swimming lessons to children from age two years and above with up to two children per class to maximise learning potential. Lessons, taught by highly experienced coaches, are engaging, confidence building and results-based. If you want your child to get back into swimming, email contact@sportsgeneration.co.uk or call 0208 940 9431 to find out more.

References: Sports England: Active Lives Children and Young People Survey. Academic Year 2019/20, January 2021 World Health Organization: Drowning, April 2021 Swim England: Value of Swimming, 2019 All-Party Parliamentary Group: The covid generation: a mental health pandemic in the making. April 2021 PsychCentral: How Swimming Reduces Depression,2010 Griffith Institute for Educational Research, at Griffith University, 2013.

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