During the summer, we tend to spend a lot more time around water. Spending time in water can look different depending on if you go to a pool, ocean, lake or river. However, we tend to forget about how beneficial swimming can be for our health.

The good news, swimming is an enjoyable activity that can be done at any age and any fitness level. As well as being fun, swimming is a great way to keep fit, stay healthy and make friends. It is a low-impact activity that has many physical and mental health benefits.

If that alone does not convince you to get in the pool, here are five other reasons why you should:

Swimming can help in chronic disease prevention because it is a great workout. You move your whole body against the resistance of the water. Nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming which helps tone muscles, maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart.

Water-based exercise improves mental health. Swimming can improve the mood in both men and women because of decreased anxiety and depression. Swimming also serves as a relaxing and peaceful form of exercise.

For people with arthritis who need low impact exercise, swimming is a good choice. It improves use of affected joints without worsening symptoms. Water-based exercise also improves the use of affected joints and decreases pain from osteoarthritis. Swimming is a great form of exercise for people with certain injuries affecting joints and muscles.

Swimming is a great form of exercise, no matter what your age. But safety must also be considered, especially for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and second leading cause of injury death in children ages 1 to 14. Here are ways we can prevent deadly accidents from happening while hanging out by the water.

Talk about it. Talk with your children about water safety. Nearly 70% of childhood drownings happen when kids aren’t swimming. Tell your children that they should not go near water without an adult present. That means taking a bath, going to the neighbor’s pool, or dangling our feet in the water while sitting on the side. Accidents happen, we trip, slip, and stumble which could lead to injury. It is important to stress the dangers of water on a regular basis.

Insist on supervision. While most public pools have paid lifeguards, family pools do not. Make certain an adult is always watching the water. This becomes challenging at family gatherings because when everyone is watching, no one is watching. When one person is not assigned or designated to watch children, then everyone tends to think someone else is doing it. Identify one or two adults as “water watchers” and have them wear a name tag or carry a whistle. The name tag or whistle allows them to know they are on duty, and when it is the next adult’s turn, they have something to hand over as a symbol of their responsibility.

Put your phone down. It only takes seconds for a child to slip beneath the surface and drown. Even the smallest distractions like checking social media posts, or a quick phone call can be too long. You don’t have to leave the phone at home but stow it away on silent mode, so you don’t get distracted. Having a phone nearby can be helpful in case of an emergency, just don’t allow it to be the reason for the emergency.

Don’t hesitate. It is important to note that people drown silently and quickly. Drownings do not appear as the movies portray; a drowning person rarely splashes, thrashes around, or calls for help. A child can drown in less than 2 inches of water, so even kiddie pools can be dangerous. If you think a child is being unsafe or is in harm’s way, don’t hesitate to act.

Swim lessons. While swim lessons do not make children “drown-proof,” they are a very important layer of protection that helps prevent drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that swim lessons can help reduce the drowning risk for children between ages 1 and 4. By their fourth birthday, most children can learn basic water survival skills such as floating, treading water, and getting to an exit point. By the age of 5 or 6, most children can master the front crawl. If your child is still learning to swim, require life jackets. Life jackets should always be worn in and around natural bodies of water such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. I

Enjoy your summer at the pool, lake, or ocean. You will benefit physically and mentally. Stay safe!

FROZEN FRUIT CUPS

1 (3-ounce) package lemon gelatin

2 cups boiling water

1 (20-ounce) can unsweetened pineapple tidbits, undrained

1 (10.5-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained

1 (6-ounce can) frozen orange juice concentrate, partially thawed

1 large, firm banana, sliced

In a large bowl, dissolve gelatin in boiling water; cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Spoon into foil cups. Freeze until firm. Remove from freezer 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: 18 servings (1 serving =1 muffin cup)

Nutrition facts per serving: 60 calories; 0 g total fat; 0 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 135 mg sodium; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 3 g protein; 4% Daily Value of vitamin A; 30% Daily Value vitamin C.

Editor’s Note: Sources of information for this article are Natalie Jones, Family Health Extension specialist, and David Weisenhorn, Ph.D., senior specialist for Parenting and Child Development. The recipe is from Kentucky Nutrition Education Program’s PlanEatMove website.

Reach Cecelia Hostilo, Trigg County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, at P. O. Box 271 (2657 Old Hopkinsville Road), Cadiz, KY 42211, by phone at 270-522-3269, fax at 270-522-9192 or email cecelia.hostilo@uky.edu.

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