With the bright, sunny days of summer upon us, there is nothing quite like the freedom of open water swimming, or a few laps in the pool.
Swimming is widely recognised as a great stress reliever, helping to wash away the stresses and anxieties of the day.
Thanks to the buoyancy of the water and support it provides for the body, swimming is also an excellent form of exercise for people with injuries, disabilities and painful joint conditions such as arthritis.
With so many health benefits and simply being a good deal of fun, swimming is on many people’s agenda over the coming months.
It is important however to pay close attention to a number of key water safety rules. According to Water Safety Ireland, on average 120 drowning deaths occur in Ireland every year, with 62% taking place at inland water sites.
To swim safely in the water this summer, keep these water safety rules in mind:
Always swim in designated swimming areas
The safest option is to swim in an area with a trained lifeguard, especially if you have children. If you are going to swim alone, you should always swim in a lifeguarded area. In addition to keeping a close eye on swimmers, lifeguards continually monitor designated bathing areas for risks such as rips and stinging jellyfish (check out this interesting fact card on jellyfish from Water Safety Ireland), so always pay attention to their instructions.
Don’t swim out of your depth
Many swimmers get into trouble when they can no longer feel the ground beneath them. Stay in your depth so that if you feel unwell, or begin to panic, you can simply stand up in the water and calmly make your way back to shore.
Watch the water temperatures
Many swimmers will attest to the benefits of cold-water swimming, particularly the burst of energy they experience after a dip. Yet cold water swimming carries the risk of shock, even in the summertime when water temperatures can dip in deep water. Cold water can have an impact on your breathing and movement and in some cases can increase the risk of drowning. If you plan to swim where the water temperatures may be cooler, consider wearing a wetsuit and swimming with a flotation device.
Never use inflatables
While brightly coloured inflatable toys look like fun, they can be extremely dangerous and carry bathers far from shore in a short amount of time so are best avoided in the sea or in large bodies of water. If you are playing with balls or other water toys, never wade into deep water to retrieve them. Deeper water can be very cold and increase the risk of cold-water shock which is a leading cause of drowning.
Look for signs of a rip
One of the key myths about rips is that they are horizontal. In fact, a channel of choppy water, a section with a noticeable difference in the water colour, a section of foam moving steadily offshore, or a break in the wave pattern can indicate a rip. Sometimes, there may be no obvious signs of a rip, so always try to swim in a lifeguarded area. If you do get caught in a rip, don’t fight the current; instead, float with the current until you are no longer caught in it, and then swim towards the shore. You can also signal to the lifeguard or beachgoers that you need help by raising your arm and shouting for help.
Staying safe in the pool
Swimming pools carry a few extra risks so a little more caution is needed. Always listen to the lifeguard and follow their instructions, they are there to keep you safe. Remind children not to run around swimming pools because tiles and wet surfaces can be slippery. Children should always be supervised, and if they are younger in age, should only swim in the paddling pool. Importantly, both children and adults should always check for other swimmers before jumping into the water, and never dive in the shallow end of the pool.
Keeping fit with swimming
Swimming is ideal for fitness because it offers a range of health benefits. It helps to build endurance, tones and strengths muscles and improves heart fitness, while helps to maintain a healthy weight. It is considered a whole-body workout because just about all the body’s muscles are used to swim. As a result, swimming can help enhance flexibility alongside balance, coordination and posture.
Swimming can also be a very cost-effective form of exercise, particularly if you swim at the sea or an inland lake or river. It also helps you get out in the fresh air amongst nature, which is excellent for stress relief and good mental health.
Keeping track of your fitness levels can give you important insights into your physical and mental health. Irish Life Health’s personalised health and wellbeing app, MyLife, helps people understand more about their health with a real-time, scientifically calculated Health Score by tracking their sleep, steps, sports, diet, activity, feelings and outlook.
The MyLife Health Score is calculated between 1 and 1000 and moves up or down depending on the mind, body and lifestyle information you enter. You can even benefit from an AI Health Coach with as little or as much motivational support as you need.
Anyone can download and use the MyLife app for free from the Apple Store or Google Play. Irish Life Health customers with certain eligible plans can also earn and use points to claim a variety of exciting rewards.
To find out more about the Irish Life Health MyLife app, or to find out more about a tailored health insurance plan that offers fitness benefits, please get in touch with a member of the Hennelly Finance team on 091 670 123 or visit our website at www.hennellyfinance.ie for more details.