Swimming is largely considered to be a recreational activity in the public eye rather than an essential skill. The truth of the matter is that knowing how to swim can actually save your life! There’s no telling exactly when or where you will need to swim to safety in the future. That said, many people question the validity of the claim that you can learn swimming at any age.
You can learn to swim at any age. There are instructional classes available that cater to specific age groups, including toddlers (1-4), kids (7-12), teenagers (13-19), and adults (20+). Special class options are also available for individuals that have aquaphobia—an extreme fear of water.
Below, we will explore the various reasons why you can learn how to swim for the first time regardless of age. Read until the end to see stories from actual people of different age backgrounds that have pushed beyond their comfort zone and learned how to swim.
Why You Can Learn How to Swim At Any Age
There are plenty of people out there—both young and old—that do not know how to swim. In fact, a survey conducted by the American Red Cross actually found that 54% of Americans do not know how to swim (source). So if you don’t know how to swim, you actually fall within the majority!
For whatever reason, some people feel shame or embarrassment that they don’t yet know how to swim. Just remember that you’re not alone. Worldwide, at least 4 billion people do not know basic swimming skills (source).
Knowing these statistics, you shouldn’t let social stigma or age hold you back from learning how to swim. Such knowledge has the potential to save lives, whether it be your own life or the lives of others.
The emergence of technology has changed swimming into more of a recreational pastime rather than an essential life skill. For this reason, there are now more adults than ever that aren’t comfortable with being in the water. The problem with this lack of knowledge is that you never know when you might unexpectedly find yourself in the water. Technology shouldn’t allow you to be complacent in confronting your personal fears.
Contrary to popular opinion, you can learn to swim no matter how old you are. There are many instructional resources available that can help ease a person into the swimming basics, regardless of their starting point.
So, without further ado, let’s delve into the various reasons why you can learn to swim at any age.
Instructional Classes are Available for Every Age Group
As aforementioned, swimming lessons are available to people of all age groups. For this reason, it’s advised that parents sign their kids up for swimming lessons as early as possible to help them build comfort in the water. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids start swimming lessons as early as the age of 1 (source).
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that swimming lessons aren’t exclusive to younger age demographics, despite what others may say. If you haven’t received any formal training in swimming, it’s still not too late to start. While many swimming lessons cater specifically to children, there are multiple class options suited to older individuals.
There’s even been a recent push for all high schools to incorporate swimming into their mandatory physical education curriculum. Certain high schools already have integrated swimming into their physical education. However, there are still many high schools that have yet to do so.
So if you’re a teenager that hasn’t yet learned how to swim, your high school may already be offering the instructional swimming lessons you’ve been seeking.
You can find additional information on this subject by clicking over to Is Swimming Mandatory in High School? (Explained).
As an adult, it can be tempting to put off swimming lessons. Though, it’s well worth your time to put aside these fears and sign up. Being surrounded by like-minded adults that share the desire for learning how to swim will encourage you to keep pushing forward. Plus, it will help you feel more comfortable knowing that you’re not alone on your swimming journey.
The main takeaway here is that whatever age you are currently, take the initiative and participate in a swim class. There are instructional swim classes out there. It’s just a matter of taking the time to find them.
Physical Requirements are Not as Lofty as They Seem
To the casual observer, swimming may seem like an extremely rigorous physical activity. After all, seeing Olympians like Michael Phelps glide through the water only bolsters the perception that you need to be fit to learn how to swim.
Swimming does require physical exertion on your part, but that does not mean that a person has to be in their athletic prime to learn the basics of swimming. It should go without saying, but swimming recreationally is very different from swimming competitively.
With land-based exercises—such as running or lifting—the body’s muscles and joints undergo heavy impact due to the inherent effects of gravity. Not only can this be physically strenuous, but it can also lead to injury. For this reason, the body’s muscles and joints need to be in pristine condition to handle these taxing elements.
Swimming, on the other hand, is not so taxing on the body. The natural buoyancy of the water minimizes the pressure on your body’s muscles and joints as you exercise.
Thus, younger individuals who have not yet reached peak muscular development can take part in swimming lessons. At that same token, older individuals who are past their physical prime can also participate in swimming classes. Luckily, the physical prerequisites for swimming are not as rigorous as you would be led to believe.
Special Class Options for Those that Have Aquaphobia
There are certain instances where people completely avoid swimming because they have an irrational fear of the water. Under severe circumstances, merely being in the vicinity of a large body of water can provoke a spike of anxiety. This condition is what we call aquaphobia (source).
The intense fear these individuals feel upon entering the water makes it nearly impossible for them to learn how to swim. Rather than focusing on learning, they’re constantly distracted by the feeling that they’re in grave danger. This makes it extremely difficult to make adequate progress, as one of the first steps to learning how to swim is being comfortable in the water.
Conventional swimming lessons largely cater to those who are unafraid of the water. Fortunately, several class options cater to those who have aquaphobia.
In these classes, instructors have been trained to work with individuals that have aquaphobia. They use specialized techniques to help ease these individuals into doing away with their fears. Of course, this process takes much longer, as they have to treat everything as a progression. Even complete submersion into the water is a huge milestone for these individuals.
Although it will be a long, arduous journey for these individuals, learning how to swim is attainable. They just have to be patient and be consistent with their efforts every week.
If you’re mildly afraid of the water and you’re looking for strategies to overcome this fear, click over to How to Get Over the Fear of Swimming: 9-Step Guide.
Examples of Young & Old People that Learned Swimming
As we’ve said numerous times throughout the article, learning how to swim has nothing to do with age. Anybody, regardless of how old they are, can learn how to swim if they have the desire to do so. There are countless instances of both young and old people learning how to swim.
One such instance occurred in 2015. A 10 year old girl named Alzain Tareq became the youngest competitive swimmer to compete in a world championship (source).
Although we’re discussing competitive swimming in this case, she was only 10 years old! Most other 10 year old children are still mastering the basic mechanics of swimming at that age. Tareq must have started swimming at a much earlier age to reach this level of success. Her story proves that learning how to swim when you’re young is more than manageable.
On the other end of the age spectrum, it was recently revealed that music icon John Legend learned how to swim at the age of 40 (source).
After already having notched so many different accolades under his belt, Legend really had no practical reason to learn how to swim. With all of his basic needs taken care of, swimming didn’t have to be at the top of his priority list. Nevertheless, he still chose to pursue swimming in contrast to the societal norm.
This shows that adults can really learn how to swim, even if they never took formal swimming lessons when they were young. If you’re still not entirely convinced, Legend also revealed in that same Tweet that his father learned how to swim at the age of 60!
Should You Learn How to Swim?
This entire article ultimately boils down to this one question. Of course, having already established that it’s never too late to swim, you probably already know the answer to this question.
As long as your body is still functional, it would be best if you took the time to swim. Even if you’re afraid of the water, there are resources available to help you cope with this anxiety and eventually conquer it.
There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t know how to swim as an adult. In fact, admitting that you have a lot to learn in swimming is the first step to acquiring this skill.
Put simply, you will never know if this activity is for you if you don’t try it out yourself. And who knows? You might find that you had a hidden passion for swimming all along.
Plus, you’ll finally be able to take part in many different water sports that you couldn’t do before. Across this website, I talk about all kinds of different water activities—from stand up paddleboarding to kayaking. Speaking from experience, learning how to swim opens up an entirely different world of fun. All you need to do is take that first step and get in the water!