Press-Republican

November 5, 2013

Instructor promotes benefits of swim lessons

By CHUCK BISHOP, Fit Bits
Press-Republican

---- — With so many sports to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which of the options available to you will ultimately be best for your child.

Should you enroll your child into a sport that you participated in, so that you can offer them advice along the way?

Or should you enroll them in a sport that you have limited knowledge of so they can experience the sport on their own, with no parental bias or pressure?

While I can’t answer this question for you, I can encourage you to consider a different direction.

Numerous studies have shown that swimming, not only recreationally but also competitively, can help improve children’s health and fitness, cognitive processes and social interactions.

Arguably the most important advantage of teaching children to swim is their safety in and around the water; after all, more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Swimming is one of the few sports that engage almost all of the major muscle groups, especially if all four competitive strokes (front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke and butterfly) are learned.

As a result, avid swimmers can expect numerous benefits that they wouldn’t otherwise see from other land-based sports. These benefits include: toning and strengthening of major muscle groups such as their upper body, lower body, and especially core muscles, greater endurance, improved cardiovascular health and improved metabolism.

Swimming is also unique in that it is completely low impact, meaning that the stress impressed upon joints by an individual’s body weight is significantly reduced.

Additionally, swimming allows children to move in ways they cannot move on land. This helps improve their muscular systems while promoting better coordination and fine tuning motor skills.

Scientifically speaking, swimming stimulates chemicals in the brain, affects neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, and releases stress, reducing hormones and endorphins. This is why many people report feeling much more relaxed and happier after completing a strenuous swim.

COGNITIVE ABILITIES

Much like during school or day care, on the first day of swim lessons, children are taught the rules, expectations and consequences for breaking those rules. This, coupled with the need to pay close attention to directions, helps children develop an understanding of constructive discipline.

Children who grasp these concepts from an early age have a much higher change of developing stricter willpower, better concentration skills and becoming goal/task oriented.

Similarly analogous with school or day care is the rewards children feel after learning, practicing and ultimately mastering a skill. While these rewards carry no monetary value, they do result in greater self-confidence, improved reasoning skills and higher work drive.

SOCIAL INTERACTION

Almost all aquatic centers will have group lessons available for children to participate in. Since swimming ability is not directly correlated to age; lesson groups will often be of mixed ages.

During these interactions, children will be forced to take turns, share equipment, share attention of the instructor and, most importantly, respect the differences in personality between them and the other children participating in the program.

All of these learning opportunities help prepare children for school, as well as for life. Effective swim lessons will not only teach your child to swim but will make them more confident in group situations, help them learn to be respectful of other people’s needs and help them take directions from adults in positions of authority.

Enrolling your children in a local learn to swim program could be one of the most rewarding decisions of their childhood.

Be sure to find a qualified, certified and experienced swim instructor to teach your little fish the ins and outs of the pool.

Today’s Fit Bits is written by guest columnist Chuck Bishop, who is aquatics supervisor at the Wellness Center at PARC. He can be reached at cbishop@wellnesscenteratparc.com.