"Swimming, swimming, in the swimming pool,
When days are hot, when days are cool,
In the swimming pool,
Breast strokes, side strokes, fancy diving too,
Oh don't you wish you never had anything else to do."
This is one of the cutest rhymes I've heard on the joy experienced when swimming (It's a Mother Goose Club rhyme that you can hear on Youtube). Apart from the fact that it's a fun activity, swimming sure has a lot of health benefits too.
The water sport, is one of the healthiest cardiovascular exercises that uses the entire body and is a great workout for arms, legs, shoulders and back. It helps keep a check on respiratory illnesses as well.
Benefits of swimming for kids
- Swimming is good for the health of the heart and lungs.
- Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental injury/death. Learning how to swim can help avoid that.
- Compared to other sportspeople, swimmers have fewer injuries.
- It's an important life skill as well as a relaxing activity.
- It helps keep kids fit and active.
Development of skill and intelligence through swimming
Along with physical health, swimming also aids children by developing motor skills, and boosts their intelligence by enhancing their cognitive skills. According to a research by The Griffith Institute for Educational Research in Australia, kids use the skills they learn in the pool in the real world too. For eg., due to the strong correlation between swimming and counting and understanding spoken instructions, kids who swim tend to pick up language and maths faster at school. The research also says that benefits were more pronounced if children learnt to swim early and continued the practice through their teens. Pushing, pulling, and kicking are all essential elements of swimming, providing a full body workout to a child. Moreover, tactile experiences and interactions during swimming enhance neurological development in a child.
When to start
There is no fixed age and opinions differ on when children can begin training in this water sport, but 4 years of age seems ideal to take formal swim lessons. Many parents are eager to have their child start swimming in infancy. Those classes are usually called 'Mommy and Me' classes. These are also beneficial as a child might be less scared of entering water when introduced to swimming early on. Having the parent around can also help build confidence in a child and motivate them to carry on with the effort. Many schools are including pool facilities these days, giving children the option of training in the sport.
Whether you start early or later, swimming is a fun sport, and an enjoyable way to exercise and keep fit. So go on, encourage your little one to swim early on.
Read Kiran Manral's column here, on the highs and lows of being the parent of a child training for swimming.