Swimming is considered to be healthy forms of exercise, a great way to get fit, and can be enjoyed by all the family. It is an ideal activity for anyone of any age, from young babies to older adults – a lifetime, and you can start at any age.
Because it is a low impact exercise, the strain on joints, muscles and your back are very much reduced, and it is also good for your circulation, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Swimming tones the body, strengthens the muscles, improves stamina and balance, relieves stress and tension, and is also a great way to burn the fat! It is recommended for people recovering from certain surgical procedures as it helps to build the muscles (always consult your physician prior to starting an exercise programme). Research has shown that pregnant women particularly benefit from swimming, strengthening the abdominal and back muscles.
The styles of swimming are easy to master and, if you don’t have your own pool or a neighbour’s to use, there are many local public swimming pools that also run classes so that you can learn to swim, from beginners to more advanced, competitive swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, and many other swimming-related activities.
Benefits of Swimming
Swimming benefits the whole body, as well as your mind, spirit and energy levels. The health benefits alone are a very good reason to take up swimming. It is a good cardiovascular activity by increasing your heart rate, helps to build your heart muscles and lung capacity, as well as improving stamina and relieving stress. The water around acts as a support system and thereby causes less strain to your joints and muscles, and you are less likely to suffer the sorts of injuries incurred in other higher impact activities.
It is a relaxing activity, low impact and boosts energy levels, leaving you feeling refreshed and happy. A lot of sports men and women have found that swimming helps them to build self-discipline, time management and an increased feeling of self-worth.
Swimming regularly is also a great way to burn fat (or calories) and tone your body as it offers an element of aerobic activity. Swimming burns approximately 3 calories a mile per pound of bodyweight. So, if you weigh 150lbs and it takes you 30 minutes to swim a mile, you will burn about 900 calories in one hour. However, to achieve this you need to be swimming regularly and to be fit.
Swimming is also beneficial for pregnant women, building abdominal and back muscles, as well as people recovering from certain surgical procedures (always seek the advise of your physician).
As long as you have a swimming costume or bikini (for the children and ladies) or swimming trunks/shorts (for the boys and men), then you can go swimming. But there is a lot more equipment you can buy to help make learning easier, and improve your level of swimming competence. There is also equipment you can get if you are planning to take up a swimming-related activity, i.e. diving, snorkelling or synchronised swimming.
Goggles are very useful if you swimming underwater, particularly for children as it protects the eyes from chlorine in swimming pools. For children that are learning to swim, there are a range of kickboards (held out in front of them to aid buoyancy), arm bands and swing rings, and for babies that are just starting to be introduced to swimming and a few months older, you can get floatsuits which are all-in-one suits with ‘floats’ attached around the body part to aid buoyancy. For the more advanced swimmer, there are fins, hand paddles and swimming gloves (good for resistance training), caps (which are also good for protecting your hair against the chlorine in pools), nose clips and ear plugs.
Equipment and clothing for swimming activities can be bought from any sports shop, online or through the swimming centre you are visiting. Prices vary depending on the equipment/clothing.
Where to Learn
There are artificially-built swimming pools found in most large towns and cities. Most of them will provide swimming sessions (usually an hour to two hours at a time) according to age and ability groups, i.e. childrens session, parent and child sessions, adult sessions, school club sessions, swimming club sessions, competitive training sessions, etc.
In addition, most public swimming pools will also run a range of courses for you to learn how to swim, taught by qualified teachers and professionals, from babies and children, to adults. These can either be private one-to-one lessons, a group lesson, or activity classes. Or you may want to join a swimming class, i.e. Aqua-Aerobics, Water Polo, Parent & Child and Pregnant Mums, where you can benefit from not only the exercise but also the social aspect too!
Many schools run their own swim clubs, where the children are taken to the local swimming centre (if they don’t have their own swimming pool) to develop their skills or learn how to swim. These are usually group lessons and activities.
You can also become a member, either as an individual or as a family, of a swimming centre and, again, there may be specific member sessions. A lot of swimming centres have several pools, one for beginners and parents with small children, a training pool with ‘lanes’, and an activity pool with slides and other fun equipment – brilliant for the young, confident swimmer.
Swimming centres will charge a fee to go and swim, and if you are having a lesson or taking part in a class, i.e. Aqua-Aerobics, there may be an additional charge. However, if you take out a membership contract with the centre, these classes are usually discounted and you don’t have to pay each time you visit the centre.
There are open air pools (‘lidos’) which are open to the public throughout the summer months, where you can swim and relax either individually, with friends or with the family, enjoy a picnic, take a dip and have fun!
If you go to a ‘lido’, many are free of charge or they request a nominal donation, as these are principally maintained by the council/government.
And there is, of course, the sea which is free of charge. Many families go to the beach and swimming in the sea is a great open water activity. If you live by the sea, an early morning swim can be very refreshing and boost your energy levels. However, be prepared and watch for strong currents as they can catch you unaware. If children are swimming in the sea, keep an eye on them at all times, make sure the younger children are wearing arm bands or a lifebelt.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do I need to be physically strong and fit?
A: No. Swimming is a great cardiovascular activity that builds strength and fitness.
Q: Do I need any special clothing or equipment?
A: Yes. For the practised swimmer, you will need a swimming costume or bikini if you are female, or swimming trunks/shorts if you are male. If you are beginner, it is highly recommended that you get arms bands or a swim ring, kick boards and for babies, a floatsuit.
Q: Where can I find a local club?
A: Look up your nearest swimming centre/pool in the directory, the library or information centre, your local school or on the internet.
Q: Is there a minimum or maximum age to take up swimming?
A: No. Swimming is a low impact sport. You can go at your own pace and with the help of the water supporting you, thereby causing little or no strain, you can build up your fitness levels.
Q: I’ve never swum before. Is it easy to learn?
A: Yes, but do get instruction from a qualified teacher which will help you master the basics much more quickly.