Why we should all learn to swim

When the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) reported that 51 per cent of children aged seven to 11 in England are unable to swim the 25 metre length of a standard pool unaided, I was actually quite shocked.

Swimming is currently compulsory as part of the National Curriculum within schools but in the current economic climate, many do not have the resources or funding to spend more of their budget on PE subjects. Of course, it is also up to parents to encourage their children to learn to swim from any early age so that they can have fun and learn to play in water safely after all, swimming is an important life skill that could help to save your own life as well as others.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) reported 407 deaths from drowning in 2011 with 47 of these incidences involving children and young people under the age of 19. RoSPA is also calling for the Government to place more priority on swimming lessons as part of the National Curriculum while former Olympic Champion Rebecca Adlington is also trying to encourage more kids to get in the pool with the launch of her Swim Stars scheme and The British Gas SwimBritain relay events.

Swimming is unique in that it is the only sport that is essentially a survival skill and can make a difference in a life or death situation. Being taught basic front crawl, how to tread water and how to play safely in the water are the key skills that children need to have. While not all kids will want to go on to swim competitively, they should feel confident in or around water.

Lack of confidence with swimming can stem from parents’ own fears and if they’re reluctant to get in the water, they’re likely to pass these fears onto their children. It is believed that one in five adults in the UK can’t swim but with many leisure centres and pools across the country now offering adult swimming lessons, it is hoped that these statistics will be lower in years to come. There is no age barrier when it comes to learning to swim and with more of these adult only sessions, people should not feel embarrassed and instead feel positive that they are taking steps to learn a life skill.

Swimming is not only a survival skill but it is also one of the best exercises that you can do as it is the only sport that works all of your body’s muscles. It is also a much gentler form of exercise and with the support of the water (which is 800 times denser than air) you can work harder and burn more calories. In fact, a half hour session can burn between 200 to 350 calories! It’s also great for those suffering from arthritis as the water makes it easier for movement which is normally quite painful and supports the muscles. Your local pool can be another place for socialising and meeting new people while children can expand their friendship groups. I was taught to swim from about the age of 3, while I swum competitively for a club and my school for about 10 years during my childhood and adolescence. I re-joined my local Masters squad last year and not only does it make me feel better physically but after a long day at work, swimming for an hour and half is like a form of therapy to me.

With the school holidays coming up, it’s absolutely vital that both children and adults feel confident when it comes to swimming in their local pool, at the beach or abroad so that they have a safe and enjoyable summer.

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