Counterbalance screen time with swimming this summer

Keeping kids entertained during the summer heat waves can be challenging. While it may be tempting to put them in front of the TV or an iPad, excessive screen time can be detrimental – particularly if it leads to kids forgoing physical activity. It’s especially important for our school-going children, who need to counterbalance the sedentary time spent sitting and learning in classrooms.

“The World Health Organisation recommends limiting recreational screen time for kids and teens, down to an hour or less for under 5s, and none at all for babies under two,” says Cath Coupar, Virgin Active South Africa’s Head of Family Experiences.

Cath Coupar, SA’s Head of Family Experiences Virgin Active

“The benefits of exercise like sports and swimming are multifaceted, spanning physical, mental, emotional, and social realms, laying the foundation for an engaged, fulfilling life,” Coupar adds.

She says that regular exercise and movement provide enormous developmental, physical, and mental benefits for growing kids, especially those aged 3-13 years.

“Physical activity throughout childhood helps build bone, muscle, and joint strength while improving coordination and movement skills. Mentally, it boosts socialisation, learning capabilities, attention spans, memory, and even academic performance.”

Research shows that for optimal health outcomes, children from ages five to 17 should try to do an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity almost every day. At least three days each week, kids should engage in muscle and bone-strengthening exercises, such as a team sport, or other high-intensity aerobic activity. Regular exercise is crucial in ensuring children’s robust physical development while they’re growing, Coupar says.

On the other hand, too much sedentary time together with a lack of exercise is an immediate contributor to health concerns like childhood obesity, poor sleep, and weakened cardiometabolic health.

“Swimming is the perfect way for kids to beat the summer scorch while getting the full-body aerobic activity they need. Beyond its fitness benefits, swimming is a crucial life skill and a fun activity for everyone. Swimming ability equips children with vital water safety knowledge and lays a foundation for various water-based adventures. What’s more, it’s a skill that could one day save your life, or someone else’s,” Coupar says.

Statistics released by the National Sea Rescue Institute show that only about 15% of South Africans can swim. Thousands of children flock to SA’s beaches and pools, seeking to escape the heat of SA’s sweltering summers. Drowning is one of the most common causes of unnatural death worldwide, and in SA on average 450 young lives are lost to drowning each year. Children under four are at the highest risk.

Many health clubs and gyms offer swimming lessons and learn-to-swim programmes. Virgin Active boasts the biggest estate of swimming pools with over 110 locations throughout South Africa, as well as in Botswana and Namibia.

“Virgin Active’s learn to swim lessons follow the globally recognised STA (Swimming Teachers’ Association) curriculum and are open to aspiring swimmers of all ages,” Coupar adds.

“Swimming is a great way to get kids active and help them realise that exercising doesn’t have to be boring. It can be an adventure. Active kids become healthy teens, then thriving adults.”

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