Just Keep Swimming: The Surprising Benefits of Winter Swim Lessons

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The American Red Cross estimates that more than 90 percent of families spend at least some time in the water during the summer months, so it makes sense that summer is the prime season for children’s swim lessons. But don’t be so quick to pull your kids out of the water just because the temperature has fallen outside.

Consider the following ways in which kids can benefit when they "just keep swimming" throughout the winter season.

Safety in the Water

According to a 2009 study from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, formal swim lessons can significantly reduce the risk of drowning, particularly in children between the ages of 1 and 4, and taking a break during the winter, especially for toddlers and preschoolers can set young swimmers back, says Kelly Gaines, owner of Charlotte Aquatics.

And though the main swimming season is the summer, just like any sport, children need time to prepare and train during the off-season, says Mary Sue Crowley, owner of Charlotte Swim Academy. "Summer classes help children build strong swimming and water safety skills, but year-round lessons allow them to better retain those skills and move on to mastering more advanced skills faster."

Keeping Active

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. But parents often struggle to keep kids active, particularly during the winter months, when colder temperatures and fewer hours of daylight limit outdoor playtime and lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. Weekly swim lessons provide built-in insurance that children are going to get moving (and splashing) on a regular basis.

Studies have found that children that swim typically have improved motor control, typically higher IQs, and better self-esteem, says Gaines. "Continuing swim lessons not only during the winter, but year round, keeps children actively engaged and growing both physically and mentally," says Gaines. "The reciprocal action of swimming — using opposite arm and opposite leg — creates great communication between both hemispheres of the brain. So not only are swimmers getting great exercise and developing great muscle control, they are improving the development of their brains."

Swimming works most of the body’s major muscle groups and carries a low risk of injury, making it an excellent form of exercise for growing children. And since swimming is an activity that almost all kids enjoy, they are likely to jump into the pool without protest.

A Cure for Cabin Fever

It’s common for children (and adults) to become bored and restless during the long winter months. Indoor activities like reading and playing video games can only provide so many hours of entertainment before kids feel the urge to run and jump and play, and parents begin to feel like they are going to lose their minds. When it’s too cold to head to the playground, a trip to an indoor pool makes for the perfect escape.

During swim lessons, kids get to expend all of the excess energy that builds up after too much time spent indoors. They have an opportunity to see their friends, interact with their teachers and move their muscles as much as they need. Once class is over, they should be ready to rest – or at least play quietly – upon returning home.

Bottom line: Routine winter swim lessons keep kids moving, and also allow them to develop the strong swimming skills needed to stay safe in the water. Maybe even more importantly, they give the entire family a reason to get out of the house before cabin fever sets in.

Alyssa Chirco is a freelance journalist and mother of two. In an effort to avoid cabin fever, she and her children spend much of the winter at their local indoor pool.