The benefits of learning how to swim

By on October 24, 2010

The benefits of swimming are unique, uplifting, and contribute to the positive development of the child. Through the soothing medium of water, children are able to tap into both their internal and external potentials.

Most children enjoy the water, especially when they are accompanied by Mum or Dad. While swimming can be learnt at any age, some parents feel that getting kids acclimated to the water at an early age is best, making swimming second nature to them. Swimming classes are available even for babies, who typically show no fear of the water. When classes are started in later years, some kids may be a bit uneasy at first, but with gentle persuasion, they can usually learn to enjoy swimming, so parents should try to ride out any initial resistance; after a few tries, the kids will welcome it.

Researchers have documented that the stimulating effect of child-paced infant/toddler swimming lessons has the potential to increase intelligence, concentration, alertness, and perceptual abilities; as well as an improvement in social, emotional, and physical development. Of course, the manifestation of such  inspired cognitive, personal and motor development takes time, patience, and repetition. 

Water is a forgiving healer; its caressing and stimulating effect on children with special needs is most remarkable. Its buoyancy is like an invisible helping hand; zero gravity allows for freedoms that do not exist on dry land. Optimal learning conditions combined with kindness and patience can even release a withdrawn or hurting child from their shell. Also, it has been discovered that autistic children and their parents find the nurturing swimming experience to be an engaging, calming, and  positive tactile environment for developing, interacting, and growing together. As much as “floor time“ works for children on the autistic spectrum (ASD), so too, can early swimming lessons taught with toys, games, songs, motion, and verbal communication help stimulate learning interactions.

Unlike some sports which require participants to be in fairly robust health, swimming can offer benefits for kids and teens at varying levels of fitness and even those with health concerns that may make participation in other sports prohibitive. Overweight kids who don‘t enjoy many sports may find swimming enjoyable; movement in the water may be easier, making fitness fun for even those who have shied away from other forms of exercise.

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Mozza Yamaguchi and his students

Kids with Juvenile Arthritis (JA) are typically left out of traditional physical education classes and may have difficulty with even the simplest movements, but the weightless feeling that water provides can make it much easier for them to get in a little daily exercise. Exercise can help alleviate some of the stiffness associated with JA and is considered necessary not only for the overall health benefits, but also to prevent joint deformity which can occur with inactivity.

Asthmatic kids sometimes find that exercise can bring on attacks, making them reliant on the use of rescue inhalers; but many of these kids can swim without experiencing any difficulties. Indoor swimming is especially favoured because the warm, moist environment makes breathing easier, as long as the pool is not over-chlorinated.

Swimming is effective in reducing anxiety, according to an article published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology. Water is a soothing environment, and swimming emphasizes gentle and repetitive motion, so those children who normally withdraw from stimulating activities benefit. The gentle pressure of water on the body helps calm some children with autism spectrum disorder, and the insulating quality of water reduces potentially enervating noise when children swim underwater, says the American Swimming Coaches Association. 

Swimming fast helps kids work out frustrations and feelings of anger, just like any athlete. After moderate to strenuous physical activity, the body produces endorphins, a substance that is a natural painkiller and mood-elevator. Boosting endorphins through cardiovascular exercise such as swimming creates a sense of well-being and serves as positive reinforcement for a healthy lifestyle.

How early should children start swimming lessons?

According to pediatricians, it‘s best to wait until the fourth month, since, at that time, the baby‘s immune system has finished developing, and the possibility for colds and infections like otitis is significantly reduced.

Mothers are always worried about the care their children receive during these classes.  Please let us know what the usual situation is in each of your swimming lessons. 

I am a certified lifeguard and swimming teacher with over 20 years of experience. During this time, I have developed a very effective teaching method based on understanding that familiarizing students with water should be done with a cheerful attitude, lots of patience, and understanding.

High importance must be given to how swimming is taught . If taught incorrectly, children can develop a phobia. Each student has different fears and needs. During the lessons, I focus on each person to pick up and develop individual skills. For this reason, I teach only very small groups of students at a time.

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About Mozza Yamaguchi

Mozza Yamaguchi is a certified lifeguard and has been teaching swimming lessons to adults and children in Tokyo for over 20 years. He has coached children at the Tokyo American Club and British School in Tokyo. He may be reached at lifesaver781@hotmail.com
Visit www.mozzaswim.com or find him on facebook Mozza Swim