Learning to Swim – A Skill for Life

Jennifer Buttner


September 18, 2013

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Can your children swim? Do you consider swimming an important life skill?  Charlotte Parker of Swim Ireland, tells us why learning to swim is a skill for life.

girls in pool_photopinSwim Ireland encourage all parents to ensure that your child can not only swim a distance but confidently demonstrate aquatic skills.

These skills will prepare your child for any circumstance that they may face in the water, and provide them with the lifelong skills that can create a healthy lifestyle, keeping them active in later life and helping them fight against diseases.

There is much documented research within the world of sport and recreation that swimming is not only the most favoured recreational activity in Ireland(evidenced through ISC and ERSI research),  but also one of the best forms of sport and exercise to help maintain a healthy body and mind.


Did you know that babies less than a year old accept the water more readily than older children. Interestingly, the fear of water is acquired as children grow older: the longer a child is kept away from water, the more likely the child will develop aqua-phobia.

Swim Ireland urges you to ensure that you take you and your child into the water as early as possible to provide them with a platform for lifelong skills.

Benefits to Babies in water

  • Babies can exercise more muscles in the water, they are less restricted by gravity and their ability to sit or stand. This increased strength often manifests itself in early acquisition of physical skills like walking.
  • Swimming improves babies cardiovascular fitness. Although babies are limited in how much they can improve their endurance, swimming does have a beneficial effect.
  • It can also improve their co-ordination and balance as they have to use both sides of their body.
  • Early mastery of water movements gives children a head start in learning basic swimming skills and in developing their own independence and self confidence.
  • Importantly, the warm water combined with gentle exercise relaxes and stimulates babies appetites. They usually eat and sleep better on swimming days. A top tip for any new parent!
  • And all of the skin to skin contact helps with the development of your bond with your baby.

Aqua Children and Aqua Adults

When you take your child into water and have taught them the basic principles of learning to be safe and effective in the water, you should find that your children will have the very basic aquatic fundamental skills which are :

  • Entering in and out of the water
  • Buoyancy
  • Streamlining
  • Rotation
  • Propulsion
  • Balance

Lifetime Physical benefits

  • man swimming_photopinBecause water is about 800 times denser than air, you can work harder, and burn more calories, in a pool than out of it.
  • If you swim for at least 20 minutes straight, keeping up a constant rhythm and speed swimming, it will help improve general fitness, tone muscles, stimulate the metabolism and burn fat.
  • Swimming can help as a part of any Healthy Living programme, and if used in conjunction with healthy eating it can help encourage weight loss.
  • Regular swimming can help maintain healthy blood pressure and heart rates and it has been found to be beneficial for asthma sufferers, as it encourages lung function and breathing control.
  • If carried out regularly and in combination with other healthy living steps like lower stress and positive diets, there is significant research consistently linking swimming to reducing the threat of life threatening illness and disease throughout life.
  • The buoyancy of the water counteracts the force of gravity, making swimming a perfect low-impact sport that puts little stress on bones and joints, and thus enjoyed by a large range of adults,  and can be maintained into older age.
  • Swimming works the body’s motor coordination. Over two thirds of the body musculature is worked when we swim, including both the lower and upper body, trunk and head, and arms and legs are forced to make a balanced effort which helps a person have all round development of muscles and systems, especially when more than one stroke is used.
  •  Swimming also strengthens joints and improves posture by improving the position of the spinal column. This makes it an excellent exercise for people with back problems.
  • Swimming can support up to 90% of the body’s weight in the water, meaning that those with disabilities, injuries or illnesses such as arthritis can take part in a comfortable and safe environment. It also means you gain a full body workout.
  • The support of the water for arthritis sufferers allows less painful movements in affected joints as well as toning up the supporting muscles. Swimming can also reduce the risk of arthritis by helping to retain normal muscle strength and joint structure.
  • This is a sport that can be continued throughout pregnancy.
  • The sport of swimming lends itself to all shapes, sizes and all age ranges and to many people with different physical demands and problems which often prevent them from exercising. Using swimming they can still maintain regular activity all throughout their life.

Lifetime psychological & emotional benefits

  • Improvement of self-image, confidence and self-esteem.
  • Swimming regularly has been known to provide a pathway to reduce stress and tension and help to alleviate anxiety and depression.
  • It is worthwhile noting that female swimmers have been shown to experience significantly less tension, depression and anger after exercising than before and whilst many people in Ireland suffer from depression at any one time – rhythmic and aerobic forms of exercise such as swimming can improve psychological well being.
  • Socially beneficial –  swimming is regularly used as a recreational and social activity that is often used on holidays and can be enjoyed by families and groups of friends.
  • Anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a great athlete for swimming to be beneficial – and fun.

To find your nearest swimming pool/facility, see the Swim Ireland website .

Swim Ireland Logo
Girls in pool photo credit: flattop341 via photopin cc
Man swimming photo credit: ~ezs via photopin cc

Do you and your family swim? Do you think swimming is an important life skill? Let us know

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