by Bri Dandrea
It’s summertime! As a kid, I can remember being most excited to go swimming during summer break. With temperatures in the 90s and 100s this summer, swimming is an ideal activity for the entire family, and not just for cooling off.
Here in Sheridan, we are lucky enough to have a beautiful indoor, year-round pool at our local YMCA, as well as a fun outdoor pool at Kendrick Park for the summer months. With swimming options available all year, I wanted to share my thoughts as an occupational therapist on how beneficial swimming can be for the whole family.
- For kids, swimming is excellent for whole body sensory input, general coordination, for whole body use, and can help relax muscle tone for those dealing with cerebral palsy or muscle contractures.
- For people of all ages, swimming is great for cardiovascular health, joint protection, and can be a great way to modify common exercises to be more or less difficult.
- It’s FUN!
Let’s “dive” a little deeper
Joint protection techniques can be helpful for people who would like to become more active, but who may be dealing with arthritis, joint issues, or even weight issues. The buoyancy of water reduces the weight gravity puts on joints. This makes walking or running less of a strain on joints. This doesn’t necessarily mean that pool walking or running gets too easy. Water provides the necessary resistance to strengthen all muscle groups thoroughly, but gently.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, people who swim regularly can expect to see improvements in blood pressure, breathing, circulation, lower heart rates, as well as an increase in the body’s ability to utilize oxygen taken from the air, and can increase how much blood is pumped out of the heart from minute-to-minute. Swimming activities don’t just have to be laps, but can be walking activities or even water aerobics classes. They are all beneficial options.
For the kids
Most kiddos love to swim once they get the hang of it and become comfortable in water. As an occupational therapist, I recognize numerous ways that swimming can help a child work on a long list of skills.
Water activities to try with your kiddo
- Add water beads to a small at-home pool. This makes cooling off in the summer a little more fun. Water beads are mysterious little beads that look similar to fish eggs. They are fun to try and pinch or grab, making them great for developing fine motor skills.
- Dive and hunt games are great for visual and gross motor skills.
- Try horse races on pool noodles by having your child sit on a pool noodle, straddling it like a horse. This simple activity is great for working on balance.
Water can be a fun and refreshing activity with health benefits for people of all ages.
Bri Dandrea, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, Pediatric Specialist, LSVT-BIG