Leaves crunch underfoot and a crisp wind ushers in brisk mornings. The sounds of summer — children laughing and splashing in a crystal-clear pool — have been stowed away along with our flip-flops and pool bags.
Except they don’t need to be stowed away.
Even if a tropical vacation isn’t in the cards for your family this winter, you can make your children feel like they are on vacation by taking them to your local indoor pool for swim lessons and indoor swimming. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports swim lessons for most kids ages 4 and older. And yes, swim lessons do continue from summer into fall and even through those cold winter months.
Here are some excellent reasons to continue swimming through the winter:
Water Safety Skills
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. Many winter swimming lessons target this age group. Parents are often invited into the pool, as well.
“Retention of skills and safety information is the number-one reason for parents to keep children swimming in the winter,” says Jenna Igel, senior program director for the Clippard Family YMCA in Cincinnati. “Every time a child gets in the water, they have a different experience.”
Keep Them Active, Relaxed and Happy
“We consider swimming not just a year-long sport, but a lifetime sport,” Igel says. “Swimming keeps your heart rate up, takes impact off your body, and builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.”
Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that involves multiple muscle groups. This kind of exercise is similar to running, in that it releases mood-boosting endorphins.
According to the American Council on Exercise, water supports 90% of one’s body weight. This makes swimming a wonderfully accessible sport for almost anyone at any age. Regular swimming practice as a child may just lead to a lifetime of fitness.
In addition to being an excellent aerobic activity, swimming is also good for your child’s mental well-being. The intentional breathing that swimming requires mirrors meditative breathing. The synchronized breathing and movement is restorative and relaxing, while the quiet that one experiences under water is soothing.
Swimming might seem like riding a bike: Once you know how to do it, you just don’t forget it. With swimming, however, there are actually quite a few skills taught in a linear fashion. You can’t just be away from the pool for six months and expect to pick up right where you left off. In addition, to be a good swimmer, one needs practice. Lots of it.
“We teach the same all year, so that kids can continue with their progression,” says Edward Rouse, franchise owner of British Swim School in the Cincinnati area. “Uninterrupted learning and practice makes these skills ‘second nature,’ enabling the student to quickly engage them when needed.”
There is an old wives’ tale that getting wet in the winter will lead to the sniffles. Research shows the opposite. Exercise, nutritious eating and good sleeping habits are actually what keep kids healthy through cold and flu season.
Taking weekly swim lessons is excellent exercise, which leads to awesome sleeping, healthful eating and excellent health in general.
During the cold months, it is a good idea to bundle up on your way to and from swim lessons. “Always change [your kids] out of their suits, and make sure you have plenty of layers, including a warm hat,” Igel says.
Most indoor swimming pools keep their pools and decks very warm during the winter months. Many also provide hair and swim suit dryers. Be sure to bring a hair dryer, if the facility doesn’t provide one. After swim lessons, it is important to get your child as dry as possible, to keep them as warm as possible on the way home.
With so many excellent facilities in the area that offer swim lessons year-round, it will be easy to find a place to take your child for fun and exercise this winter.