At your swim school, you no doubt want to encourage physical fitness in your swimmers. But have you ever considered exactly what “physical fitness” means? Or maybe a more helpful question would be, “What are some suitable fitness goals for children?” Or even, “What does a healthy lifestyle include?”
We all know that the obesity epidemic is a problem, but really, it’s only one symptom (albeit a significant one) of a much larger issue. Being committed to encouraging physical fitness is a good thing, but first we really need to understand more of what that means and in which areas of fitness your swim school students are most likely to need help.
Various Types of Physical Fitness
If you’re thinking that not everyone defines physical fitness the same way, you’re right! Depending on who you’re talking to, any of the following types of fitness may be intended:
- flexibility or range of motion without stiffness or pain
- strength or ability of muscles and bones to support, push, or pull weight
- muscular endurance or amount of time muscles can perform
- body composition or percentage of fat in the body
- cardiovascular endurance or ability of the heart to be active for a period of time
- athletic skill or ability to perform relating to a particular sport or activity
Unfortunately, children are often pressured to focus on athletic skill more than any other areas of physical fitness, despite the fact that that area of fitness offers fewer benefits to overall health than any other area listed above. Of course, you want to teach proper stroke formation in your swim school; but you also want to encourage overall health and fitness.
At the same time, though, there is one area of physical fitness that has a significantly greater impact than any other area: cardiovascular fitness. Defined as “the ability to exercise vigorously for a long time,” this characteristic will undoubtedly impact your students’ swimming success, as well. But that’s not the only reason you want to focus on it.
Cardiovascular Endurance Among Children
Once you realize how important cardiovascular endurance is to a person’s overall health, the findings of a study by the American Heart Association can be quite alarming. In evaluating today’s children, compared to their parents, endurance levels have decreased by between 5 and 6 percent per decade. Another way to compare children from those generations is that today’s kids are 15% less fit when it comes to cardio endurance. And in three decades, the average amount of time it takes to run a mile has increased by 90 seconds. It’s no wonder that today’s kids are being called the “degenerating generation.”
Well, that’s the bad news. But there’s good news, too! There’s something you can do about these alarming statistics about cardiovascular endurance. In Part 2, we’ll consider how you can encourage your swimmers to make the kinds of healthy choices that lead to improved cardio fitness.