As soon as the first warm day hits at the start of a new calendar year, my kids ask about the pool. They want to know when it’s opening, when we are going, and how long before Summer begins. This happens each and every January without fail. Without a doubt, they will ask me no less than one million times between that first warm day and the official first day of pool season. Needless to say, my kids love the pool, and everything about it. Here are the benefits of swimming as a family.
This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, July 2018. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
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Our Family is a School of Fish
I really can’t blame them though. The pool was a huge hit when I was younger, and every day when it wasn’t lightning, we were swimming. Just as my sister and I were, my kids are fish in the pool and it’s hard to get them to leave once we arrive. It’s one of the few places we can all go and enjoy as a family. The best part? Minimal arguing. Absolute heaven!
Throughout the school year, large portions of my week consists of me being indoors either working on the computer or resting on the couch. However, during the summer months when my kids are on school break, I aim to spend as much time with my kiddos as physically allowed by my body. Usually this time is with them at the pool because I enjoy the pool (almost) as much as they do.
Swimming has numerous benefits for my body and relieves all sorts of my aches and pains. It’s one of the few activities my kids and I can do together without resulting in me flaring in some way, shape, or form. Because this activity is largely beneficial for me, I thought I could do an article about these benefits for those that are not aware.
When I started thinking about what to include in this article, I realized there are many pros to swimming and not just for me. I began to realize how many other benefits there are at the pool aside from swimming. Here are just a few ways venturing out to the pool can be beneficial to the entire family.
Benefits of Swimming as a Family
Spending time together.
Getting family time each day is important to me, and we aim to have at least one time during the day where we all come together. Usually this is dinner time, and each of us looks forward to this part of the day where we talk and laugh together. I didn’t realize how beneficial this time together is whether we are at the dinner table or at the pool.
When the electronic devices are turned off and our attention turned on, both parent and child can reap numerous benefits. Not only will the time together foster an emotional bond between parent and child, but it will also improve communication between family members. My kids will use this time to nonchalantly discuss matters weighing on their mind. I don’t think they realize they are doing it either. During this time, I might find out the real reason my daughter has been snippy lately or why my youngest son has been especially frustrated. Sometimes they will ask about something they observed with me or my husband. Overall, the doors of communication open and initiates good, wholesome conversations.
When attention is focused on children, kids will tend to exhibit less behavioral problems and receive better grades in school, too. Our time together speaks volumes to them and lets them know they are valued in their family.
Each day, rather we are an adult or child, we are faced with stress. For an adult, it can be stressed about finances, our job, or our health. For a child, stress can be about an upcoming test, a problem with another kid, or an impending move. Whatever the cause, stress affects both adults and children, and can cause health complications regardless of age. For someone living with fibromyalgia, stress can trigger a flare in symptoms.
Spending time in the water is therapeutic for adults and children. For a fibro parent, swimming or sitting by the pool will induce a relaxation state which will reduce stress levels. This will not only lessen the severity of fibro symptoms, but will also ease muscle tension and distract from the pain. For your child, splashing and swimming releases hormones that reduce stress levels and will also improve their overall health and immunity.
Soaking up nutrients.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient which functions like a hormone and is vital to every cell in our body. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population do not receive the appropriate amounts of it and are vitamin D deficient. This deficiency can lead to various ailments including fatigue, nerve pain, muscle pains, lowered immunity, bone loss and depression.
Being in the sun is a good way to get the vitamin D your body needs. The sun rays themselves do not contain the nutrient, but the rays do trigger a chemical reaction in the body that produces it. It’s almost like photosynthesis in plants. Simply put, when our body is directly exposed to sunshine, it makes cholesterol which then produces vitamin D. The nutrient is then fed directly to our cells giving them exactly what they need to function. While it’s good to soak up those rays of sunshine, limit your intake and be sure to protect your skin with sunscreen for prolonged sun exposure.
When living with a chronic illness, it’s easy to become isolated without intending to do so. It’s not that we don’t like being around others, but making plans when symptoms constantly wax and wane make it impossible. More often than not, we are canceling engagements and are unable to attend many social events.
Taking a trip to the pool will help break that isolation and will be a social affair for the entire family. Socializing has its benefits, too. Kids will interact with other kids developing their social skills while building new friendships. Parents can chat with other parents while their children play also improving social skills and possibly building new friendships. Being social wards off depression, improves self-esteem, and reduces loneliness for a fibro and non-fibro parent.
Boosting confidence and self-esteem.
We may not want to admit it, but many of us living with fibromyalgia or a chronic illness lack confidence and self-esteem. It’s a reality common amongst the chronic illness communities. Sometimes a new ailment or symptom can knock us down just as we are learning to adjust to the last new ailment. Children also struggle with daily challenges that can impact their confidence and self-esteem.
While spending time in the pool, children will always be looking for new challenges to overcome such as learning to swim, going underwater, or jumping off the side of the pool. With each accomplishment, their confidence is boosted and their self-esteem grows. With each challenge, parents share in the accomplishment and beam with pride of what their child has overcome. This boosts confidence in our parenting skills and raises our self-esteem as well.
Making exercise fun.
Swimming is one of the best exercises a fibromyalgia thriver can do, and it’s one of the most fun ways to get kids to exercise. The buoyancy of the water relieves strain and pressure from the joints making it easier for the body to move. Swimming moves all parts of the body and improves circulation throughout the body. It also gets the heart pumping which improves cardiovascular and respiratory functioning.
At our community’s pool, we are limited on what is allowed in the pool. No big riding floats, big squirting water guns, or large inner tubes. For me, this is absolutely fine. Not having these floats and toys encourages my children and me to use our imaginations when playing in the pool. It’s exciting to see what worlds and games my children create, and it allows me to be more playful when interacting with their creations.
Research has shown that a child using their imagination is vital to cognitive development and helps them understand reality later on in life. For adults and children, daydreaming and imagining helps solve real life issues and engages the brain on a higher level of thinking. And the benefits don’t stop there. The American Psychological Association says self-imagination can help recall memories for those that have suffered impairments from a brain injury.
Grab your swimsuits, towels, sunscreen and kiddos and head to the pool! Even a small, one hour trip to the pool can make a difference for you and your family’s health. What are you waiting for?