Learning to Swim in Adulthood

By June Kellum Fakkert, Epoch Times
April 5, 2014 5:33 am Last Updated: April 28, 2016 5:01 pm

Soon enough the chill winds and rains of spring will give way to blistering summer heat, and many of us will head to the poolside. However, over a third of American adults may not take advantage of swimming opportunities because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 37 percent of American adults say they have limited swimming ability.

To lower this number, the national Florida-based nonprofit, U.S. Masters Swimming, has designated April as adult learn-to-swim month. The Epoch Times spoke with the executive director of Masters Swimming, Rob Butcher, about what it takes to learn to swim when you’re older.

Epoch Times: If someone never learned to swim as a child, can they learn when they are in their 60s, 70s, or 80s?

Mr. Rob Butcher: Yes. Our world is 70 percent water and there are close to 20 million swimming pools and hot tubs in the U.S. Regardless of age, every adult should learn this basic lifesaving skill.

An important ingredient is to find an instructor who will help you feel comfortable in water with such things as floating and breathing. Once you have comfort with the water, then you can begin to learn strokes that will actually help you swim.

Epoch Times: What misconceptions do people have about learning to swim as adults?

Mr. Butcher: It takes commitment and patience from the adult learner. Depending on a person’s comfort level while being in the water, it will probably take four to eight 30-minute lessons before they are able to comfortably swim one to two lengths of a pool.

Epoch Times: What do you suggest for adults who want to learn?

Mr. Butcher: Start in a pool where you can touch the wall and bottom. It would be preferable to have one-on-one instruction with a teacher who can help you become comfortable and relaxed in the water, then progress to learning swimming strokes.

Epoch Times: Are there programs to help adults who are phobic of water overcome their fears?

Answer: Miracle Swimming … specializes in helping adults overcome their fear of water. Check out www.usms.org for info.

Editor’s Note: Miracle Swimming will offer classes in Manhattan in May and November this year. For more information click on Classes and then Our Locations in the top dropdown menu.


Epoch Times: What can people do to keep their personal pools safe for children, pets, and or adults?

Mr. Butcher: One simple encouragement is do not pee in a pool. There is significant research that shows peeing in pools can have harmful effects and contribute to things like asthma.

For more information about U.S. Masters Swimming visit: http://www.usms.org


Tips to Help the Whole Family Stay Safe in the Water

Supervise Children When in or Around Water

Designate a responsible adult to watch young children while in the bath and all children swimming or playing in or around water.

Supervisors of preschool children should provide “touch supervision,” be close enough to reach the child at all times. Because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity (such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn) while supervising children, even if lifeguards are present.

Use the Buddy System

Always swim with a buddy. Select swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.

Seizure Disorder Safety

If you or a family member has a seizure disorder, provide one-on-one supervision around water, including swimming pools. Consider taking showers rather than using a bathtub for bathing. Wear life jackets when boating.

Learn to Swim

Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, even when children have had formal swimming lessons, constant, careful supervision when children are in the water, and barriers, such as pool fencing to prevent unsupervised access, are still important.

Learn CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

In the time it takes for paramedics to arrive, your CPR skills could save someone’s life.

Air-Filled or Foam Toys Are Not Safety Devices

Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings,” “noodles,” or inner tubes instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

Avoid Alcohol

Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.

Don’t Let Swimmers Hyperventilate

Don’t let swimmers hyperventilate before swimming underwater or try to hold their breath for long periods of time. This can cause them to pass out (sometimes called “shallow water blackout”) and drown.

Prevent Water Illnesses

Know how to prevent recreational water illnesses. Contrary to popular belief, chlorine does not kill all germs instantly. There are germs today that are very tolerant to chlorine and were not known to cause human disease until recently. Once these germs get in the pool, it can take anywhere from minutes to days for chlorine to kill them. Swallowing just a little water that contains these germs can make you sick.

Keep the poop, germs, and pee out of the water. Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. Shower with soap before you start swimming. Take a rinse shower before you get back into the water. Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes.
Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Keeping chlorine at recommended levels is essential to maintain a healthy pool.


Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.

If You Have a Swimming Pool at Home:

Install Four-Sided Fencing. Install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the pool area from the house and yard. The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Use self-closing and self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. Also, consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks and alarms to prevent access or alert you if someone enters the pool area.

Clear the Pool and Deck of Toys. Remove floats, balls, and other toys from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so children are not tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised.

If You Are In and Around Natural Water Settings:

Use U.S. Coast Guard Approved Life Jackets. This is important regardless of the distance to be traveled, the size of the boat, or the swimming ability of boaters; life jackets can reduce risk for weaker swimmers too.

Flags. Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags. These may vary from one beach to another.

Dangerous Water. Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents. Some examples are water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore.

Rip Currents. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim diagonally toward shore.

Source: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention