Six Ways That Swimming Benefits People with Disabilities

Therapist Working with Girl in a Pool

Swimming is a terrific way to cool off during the summer months and an effective way to stay fit throughout the year. It’s also a safety skill that everyone needs to learn. In recent years, more and more swim education programs have begun to offer swim lessons for people with special needs. It’s no wonder. The National Autism Association reports that, “drowning is among the leading causes of death of individuals with autism.” But swimming benefits children and adults with all types of special needs. Here are just some of the reasons why recreational swimming and swimming lessons are a worthwhile investment:

Swimming improves heart and lung health
According to the CDC, nearly half of all adults with disabilities don’t get any aerobic physical activity. Exercise is an essential part of maintaining one’s health, and swimming is an excellent way for people with mobility challenges to stay fit. In fact, Paralympic swimming coach Queenie Nichols, says “Athletes with disabilities, from below-knee amputations to severe quads, can compete and compete successfully.” That being said, it’s not necessary to be an elite athlete to reap the health benefits of swimming or adaptive swimming. These benefits include strengthening the cardiovascular system without putting undue stress on the body.

Swimming helps people with disabilities to maintain a healthy weight
The President’s Council on Health, Fitness and Nutrition reports that in children with disabilities, “obesity rates are approximately 38% higher than for children without disabilities. It gets worse for the adult population where obesity rates for adults with disabilities are approximately 57% higher than for adults without disabilities.” Swimming burns many calories making it a terrific treatment for obesity.

 Swimming improves motor skills and coordination
Swimming doesn’t require the level of motor skill development and coordination that some other sports do. At the same time, it helps to develop those skills. According to Natural, “Swimmers of all ages will experience a boost to their brain development, due to the kicking of their legs and movement of their arms at the same time. As you work through this combination, you’ll begin to notice a boost in motor skills.”

Swimming builds muscle strength, and increases flexibility
Swimming strengthens just about every muscle group in the body. Since water helps to support muscles, it’s an ideal form of exercise for those who are unable to do other muscle-building types of exercise. Swimming in a heated pool also helps to increase flexibility by relaxing the muscles. That’s why swimming is such an excellent activity for people with cerebral palsy, who often struggle with spasticity.

Swimming reduces pain
Studies show that swimming reduces pain for people with multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other disorders that cause chronic pain. Swimming and aquatherapy also help to facilitate healing for those rehabbing an injury.

Improves mental health
Research show that swimming improves symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduces stress and fatigue and builds confidence. Participating in a swimming class for people with special needs also provides valuable socialization opportunities.