The reasons to learn to swim are many and varied, from simply being a fun pastime to providing rigorous and effective exercise.

But research carried out by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) found that around one in five adults cannot swim. Whether you're learning for the first time or simply want to improve your in-water abilities, take comfort in the fact that you aren't alone.

While adults aren't nearly as carefree as children when faced with the prospect of swimming for the first time, Alyson Zell, aquatic business manager at Freedom Leisure, says it's never too late to learn. 'When adults decide to learn to swim it is usually for a good reason – before a holiday, so they can join their children who can swim, or they want to participate in an activity where they need to be able to swim, such as sailing. This means they are more likely to succeed. Everyone can learn to swim, it is just the journey that is different. If you cannot swim you are missing out on a great way to keep fit and healthy.'

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Apart from making you look great physically, swimming will also make you feel great mentally. Just 30 minutes of pool time three times per week improves sleep patterns, lowers stress levels and significantly reduces the chances of anxiety and depression.

So, it's time to grab your goggles and (literally) dive in at the deep end! Before you go, though, we've got some tips together to ensure you get the most out of your sessions in the pool.

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Before you get to the pool

Staying calm in the water is essential, says Alyson, who suggests building water confidence in the bathroom before progressing to the pool.

'The more relaxed you are the easier it will be to learn. Easier said than done I realise, but try practicing submerging your face while gently breathing out as this is an important skill for swimming. You can easily do this at home in the bath, shower or sink while your feet are on dry land.'

Because breathing is such an important part of swimming, make sure you can master it in advance. Get used to the idea of keeping your breathing steady and controlled while your body's main focus is on something else. Try it during running, walking, or even something as simple as doing the ironing or cooking dinner.

Count the number of seconds it takes you to in/exhale, and keep track on how long you can hold your breath for. This will give you an idea of what you're capable of in the water, help you stay calm and make it easier for you to stay in control if you start to panic.

Get the gear

Having the right swimwear is key to how well you'll be able to learn, says Alyson. 'Make sure you choose suitable swimwear that will not impede movement, long hair needs to be tied up or use a swim hat. Goggles can also be useful to assist the learner to submerge.'

There are also a few other not-so-well-known accessories out there that you might find useful on your road to swimming success. Nose clips and earplugs prevent you from getting water in unwanted places and causing discomfort. They can also help protect you from developing sinus problems and ear infections – two things that would stop you from being able to swim, and nobody wants that!


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