It’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness week and we know that swimming is not just a life-saving skill. It can also be a powerful catalyst for a child’s development, and offers a wealth of incredible physical, emotional, and social benefits.
When a baby or child swims consistently they improve their muscle strength, tone, and stamina, as every muscle in the body is engaged. Swimming will strengthen your child’s heart and lungs as it uses the respiratory and cardiovascular system. It’s also proven to increase co-ordination and enhance your child’s fine and gross motor skills, which are transferrable to a plethora of other sports and physical activities.
In terms of mental health, swimming stands head and shoulders above all other sports in my opinion. There is something extremely therapeutic about the water that stimulates all the senses. It has the power to transform people’s moods not just in the short term but in the long term as well.
Post swim your child’s brain will release natural “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. This biological response coupled with the psychological factor of improved confidence and self-esteem will result in a happier and healthier child.
For children and all ages swimming can reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. For those with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities the water provides a unique opportunity for self-expression and emotional regulation. Some children with ASD are non-verbal, so the sight, sound and touch of the water gifts them the opportunity to express themselves through movement, feeling weightless and when underwater they are liberated from the noise and overstimulation of the outside world.
When conducting research on teaching swimming in Australia, I spent some time with Laurie Lawrence, who shared with me the landmark Griffith University study.