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 –