About 1 in 5 Americans can’t swim, according to the Red Cross. If you're embarrassed about not knowing how to swim as an adult (which you shouldn't be), just know you're not alone—it's common!
In fact, one of my best friends doesn't know how to swim! When we were 18, she brought me to her neighborhood pool. She said, "I really don't know how to swim."
"Oh," I said. I was a competitive swimmer and taught swim lessons to children at the time. "Well, let me teach you. Do you know how to float?"
"No," she said.
We got in the pool and I attempted to teach her how to float. To be honest, teaching someone who wasn't a small child wasn't easy. But there are people who specialize in teaching adults! Teaching adults how to swim wasn't my expertise or ability, but some swim instructors focus solely on teaching adults. You just have to find the right instructor.
It doesn't matter where you are as a swimmer. Whether you're completely unable to swim, or you have some ability, everyone can benefit from taking swim lessons as an adult! Although most swim schools focus on child swim lessons, adult swim lessons exist! You just have to search for them.
Why should adults learn to swim?
Maybe I'm biased here as an ex-competitive swimmer, but swimming is just fun. Swimming laps or even just jumping the waves at the beach. I mean it's fun when you know that you're safe and capable of swimming. Because I'm sure many people reading this who don't know how to swim are thinking, "No. Swimming is terrible!"
But it's really not! Once you get rid of the fear of drowning—which is totally valid, by the way—swimming is insanely fun. Being in the water is so enjoyable and relaxing, when you know you won't drown.
Safety is a huge reason why adults should learn to swim. When you know you'll be safe in the water, you won't have to be scared to go on boats or near water!
Why is it harder for Adults to learn how to swim?
But that fear of drowning is exactly why it is harder for adults to learn how to swim. They always say to put your babies in the water when they are very young so they have an instinct of how to hold their breath in the water. If you don't put them in early enough, the babies will lose their instincts. Babies lose their aquatic instincts at about 6 months of age.
So yes, being a baby or an infant makes it easier to learn how to swim due to natural instincts. Plus, we're always better at sports when we learn younger, just because we have more years of practice.
But the main reason a baby or toddler has an easier time learning how to swim is because they aren't extremely afraid of the water. Just like they don't know that walking across the road could kill them, they don't know that being in the water without knowing how to swim is unsafe.
But in reality, adults are more physically capable of learning how to swim because we already have muscular endurance and strength. The main thing holding adults back from learning how to swim is fear.
Nothing worth doing has ever been easy.
If you go to adult swim lessons, your instructor will ensure you are safe. They are usually trained in lifeguarding. Plus, you probably will stay at the shallow end of the pool where you can safely stand until your instructor is confident you will be okay in the deep end.
The benefits of learning how to swim as an adult far outweigh the fear factor of swimming. Plus, I swear, once you get in the pool and start swimming, you'll fall in love with the challenge.
You won't know unless you try!