Swimming offers many health and fitness benefits. It works your entire body, enhances your cardiovascular conditioning, builds muscle strength and endurance, and improves your posture and flexibility.
It’s also a low-impact exercise that protects your joints from stress and strain, making it an activity that can be enjoyed at any age.
It’s never too late to learn how to swim, and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue encourages parents to ensure their children learn this life skill and how to stay safe in and around water.
Both adults and children can enroll in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors.
This summer, as people head to area pools and local waterways to cool off and enjoy the outdoors, TVF&R advises you to plan ahead for possible risks, learn about water safety, and know how to respond to a water emergency.
A drowning or near-drowning can happen in a matter of seconds. It typically occurs when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision. Some may be surprised to learn that drowning is silent — there can be very little splashing, waving, or swimming to alert parents and bystanders to a swimmer in distress.
Make safety a priority when in or around water by following these tips:
- Always supervise children, giving them your undivided attention. Keep young kids within arm’s reach of an adult and make sure older children swim with a partner.
- Use the buddy system — even adults should never swim alone, especially in open water such as lakes, rivers, and streams.
- Know your swimming limits, and keep an eye on weaker swimmers.
- Watch for the dangerous “toos.” Take frequent breaks if you are feeling too tired, too cold, too far from safety, exposed to too much sun, or experience too much strenuous activity.
- Don’t dive in shallow water or unfamiliar areas. The American Red Cross recommends 9 feet as a minimum depth for diving.
- Young children should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in or around open water. Weak or non-swimmers should also wear a life jacket in pools.
- Do not use air-filled swimming aids in place of life jackets or life preservers with children. “Water wings” can give parents and kids a false sense of security. These air-filled aids are toys that are not designed to be personal-flotation devices.
- Adults should have or wear a personal-flotation device when boating or fishing in open water.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Have a charged cellphone nearby in the event of an emergency.
- Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills.
TVF&R also reminds you that swimming in a natural body of water is different than a pool. More skills and energy are needed, along with an eye for potential hazards. Those heading to swim outdoors in open water need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow, and changing weather.