Swimming’s Amazing Benefits to the Brain

Your water workout gives your body and heart all the benefit of an aerobic workout without impact on the joints. But another amazing perk of swimming is that it’s great for your brain!

President of SWIMkids USA Lana Whitehead holds degrees in exercise physiology, special education and she’s a member of the American College of Sports Medicine.  She says a great deal of research has been done with babies finding numerous scientific benefits that swimming has on the brain and that those findings also translate to adults.

So, let’s dive in!

Benefits brain efficiency

The process of lap swimming involves bilateral cross patterning movements which aid in overall efficiency with the brain processes. The more bilateral cross patterning movements, the more nerve fibers develop in the corpus callosum which is a tract of 250 million nerve fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres of the brain and facilitate the communication, feedback and modulation from one side of the brain to the other. Cross lateral movements like swimming activate both cerebral hemispheres and all four lobes of the brain simultaneously, which can result in heightened cognition and increased ease of learning.

Boosts intelligence

It’s a great idea to get kids into swim lessons early. Scientific studies of young swimmers at the German Sports College, Cologne showed early swim lessons encourage a child’s mental development. As compared with a control group, the children who swam consistently from age three months, scored higher for intelligence and problem-solving and this carried over into excellence in academic achievement when tested at 2, 3 and 4 years. This was supported when 2009, Griffith University did a 4-year research project with 45 swim schools across the world. The results showed children, under the age of 5, involved in swim programs were more advanced in their cognitive development than their non-swimming peers.

Beneficial to memory

Art Kramer and his colleagues at the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh discovered that vigorous exercise like swimming affects the size and memory capacity of the hippocampus which is a memory area of the brain located in the medial temporal lobes. They concluded that more tissue in the hippocampus equates with increased ability in certain types of memory. Other research suggests that exercise promotes so-called “hippocampal neurogenesis” – the growth of new brain cells in a part of the brain that atrophies under chronic stress.

Better for neural pathways:

There’s a reason why swimming’s used by athletes recovering from an injury. They may not be able to do weightlifting but the swimmer experiences a great deal of tactile force from the water resistance over the body which has over 600 – 700 times the resistance of air. In babies, this tactile stimulation encourages neurological development. The more tactile stimulation of the nerves the swimmer experiences, the more interconnections and neural pathways can develop in the brain.


SWIMkids USA is an acclaimed and family-owned swim school in Mesa that Lana Whitehead opened more than almost 50 years ago.  www.swimkidsaz.com

5 Things to Consider when Looking for A Swim Class

The American Academy of Pediatrics is putting a spotlight on baby swim lessons by recommending swim lessons begin at age 1. Their previous guidelines recommended the starting age as 4 years old. The new guidelines also recommend that all children learn to swim to keep them safer around water.

“At SWIMkids USA, we are extremely pleased to have the support of doctors taking this strong stance and letting parents know the importance of the benefits of lessons as a drowning prevention measure,” said Lana Whitehead, President and Founder of SWIMkids USA school in Mesa, AZ and one of the creators of the Water Smart Babies Program. “Swim lessons, along with CPR training, pool fencing, and very close supervision are also absolutely vital.”

Here are Lana’s 5 things to consider when looking for swim lessons for your child

Class Size is Small

There should be at least one instructor for every 4 to 5 children with the parents holding the children and participating in the (parent/tot) lessons. The teacher student ratio should be small enough so that an instructor can give each child individual instruction in addition to group activities. There must always be a lifeguard on the deck.


Instructors are Highly Trained and Credentialed

Instructors should be certified as a lifeguard with yearly re-certifications in CPR and First Aid for the professional rescuer. In addition, they should complete an intensive certification course for baby swimming which includes childhood developmental education, safety in-services, and practical sessions in the pool. This assists the instructor in understanding the developmental phases his/her students will pass through during their aquatic education and provides him/her with the tools to teach a successful program. Background checks should be required for every instructor and for staff.


Water Safety Skills are Taught

Check the class curriculum and make sure it includes drowning prevention skills. The goal for water safety lessons is to prepare the child for an emergency if he/she falls in the water accidentally. When a child learns to hold his/her breath, kick to the surface and then roll over onto his/her back, he/she can rest, breathe and call or yell for help. The child should then learn the swim-float-swim sequence. This water survival technique is the standard in the swim school industry. The student is trained to climb to the top of the water, rotate to his/her back for a short rest period. Then he/she rolls in a horizontal position back onto his/her stomach, rolls back onto his/her back to rest and continues a swim-float-swim sequence until he/she reaches the safety of the wall or steps and climbs out. Thousands of children in California, Arizona and Florida continue to be saved by this proven technique.


Nurturing Instructional Style

A good program builds upon a child’s successes. The instructor should always be nurturing, positive and supportive. If the child is constantly fearful, frustrated, and unable to perform the skills, some changes should be made.

  • An aquatic instructor should show (visual) the student; tell (auditory) him and guide (proprioceptive) him, before she expects him to act in an adaptive manner.
  • Then he/she must walk the child through the skill, without submersion, using gentle guidance, manipulating his/her every move before expecting him/her to perform the skill under water.
  • Patient preparation and practice is critical to the child’s security, confidence, and enthusiasm for water safety lessons. The most important ingredient for success is loving, gentle support, and never imposing techniques on a child with the use of force.


Clean Facility

The pools must be permitted by the local government agency such as the Health Department or County Department of Environmental Services. These agencies regularly test water quality, safety and cleanliness of the facility.

  • The pool must be heated to ensure that it is warm about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The air temperature must also be warm and comfortable, approximately 80 degrees.

  • Young babies can become cold very quickly. So, they should be kept in the water away from cool drafts and wrapped in a towel immediately upon exiting the pool.


SWIMkids USA is celebrating 48 years in business this summer. Check out our amazing classes (including free classes for babies) at www.swimkidsaz.com or call us at (480) 820.9109

Keep kids swimming- for smarts!

There are surprising benefits to year-round swim lessons.  As the weather turns cooler and summer ends, keep ’em swimming!  It can make their learning easier.

Research out of Australia https://app.griffith.edu.au/news/2013/08/13/swimming-a-smart-move-for-children/shows   proves that children, who were taught to swim by 5 years, had statistically higher IQs.

Turns out, some of what you learn in the classroom (or in your day-to-day experiences) is similar to what you learn in a pool, says lead study author Robyn Jorgensen, Ph.D. is a professor and senior fellow at the Griffith Institute for Educational Research.

SWIMkids USA http://www.swimkidsaz.com  provided data for this highly regarded study. Called the Early Years Swimming Research Project, it included date with 45-swim schools across the globe. Researchers surveyed the parents of more than 7,000 children age 5 and under and found that the age kids learned to swim correlated with when they began accomplishing certain skills.

5-Reasons to Swim for Smarts!

  • Jorgensen’s study found, the earlier the child started and the longer they remained in the swimming lessons, the greater the gains.
  • Kids who are taught to swim at an early age hit certain physical and developmental milestones faster than kids who learn later in life.
  • In pre-school, early swimmers had better visual-motor skills (like cutting paper and drawing lines and shapes), but also fared better as they got older (i.e. understanding directions, math, and writing and reading skills).
  • There’s a strong synergy between language and action with swimming that’s essential for many cognitive and motor skills as they grow older. Kids learn at an early age to hear language and make connections with their bodies (for example, counting to 10 while kicking).
  • It doesn’t take long to see the effects. When researchers observed swimming lessons, they found that the kids’ eyes blinked in preparation for the ready cue — “one, two, three, go! ” — a clear sign that young kids can understand language and react accordingly even if they can’t communicate everything clearly.

From swim lessons to swim teams, let us at SWIMkids USA know how we can help you with your child’s success!

SWIMkids USA  -where children love to learn.

Olympic Dreams Begin Here! SWIMkids USA

The same night as the Parade of Nations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium was going on, a second Parade of Nations was happening in Mesa at SWIMkids USA.

The Rio parade was awe-inspiring as it featured top athletes from across the globe marching together including Gilbert gymnast Alex Naddor, Tempe diver Sam Dorman and legendary swimmer with Tempe ties, Michael Phelps who was carrying the American flag.

The Mesa Parade of Nations was charming as it featured children from Gilbert, Tempe and other East Valley cities who were waving flags from different countries around the world as they marched around the SWIMkids USA facility where they are in the early stages of  learning to swim or do gymnastics.

Even if the little swimmers and gymnasts are not taking lessons to be a future Olympian, they are gaining so many life skills from simply participating in sports. They are learning discipline,  goal setting and they are gaining self confidence.

Every athlete in the games of the XXXI Olympiad started learning in a facility just like the swim school they East Valley students are learning in. It is in community swim, gym centers or recreation facilities where the foundation for their future success was laid. The athletes then with long and hard hours of learning and practicing became the elite athletes that everyone can admire.

The children who were in the Mesa parade see from the Arizona athletes in Rio that Olympic dreams begin in cities just like the ones they are growing up in. They see that friendly competition can be fun and they learned by being part of a the SWIMkids USA Parade of Nations that the world is a wonderful place.


Swim Lessons Save Lives (and other facts)

How do you think it sounds when someone is drowning? That drowning victims make a lot of noise is only one of the false-assumptions around water safety, which keep drowning tragedies too often at the top of the daily news.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –  in the United States, 300 children die each year and about 3,000 children are taken to emergency rooms from drowning.

Arizona is fourth in the nation for incidence of childhood drowning, notes Pool Safely.

Can you debunk some of these common myths about drowning?  True or False?

  1. Arm floaties are a good way to keep a child safe.
    False:  Arm floaties should never be used. They slip off, puncture and give a child a false sense of security.
  2. By age 3 a child is finally ready to start their swim lessons.
    False: EARLY swim lessons save lives! A child can begin swim lessons with their parent before they learn to walk and become dangerously mobile.
  3. Children drown more often than adults.
    False: Adults drown 70 percent of the time and children drown 30 percent of the time according to Children Safety Zone.
  4.  African American individuals drown more often than other races.
    True: Among children ages 5-14, African American children drown almost three-times the number of white children, according to the CDC.
  5. Men are often stronger than women yet they drown more often than women.
    True: Nearly 80 percent of individuals who drown are men.

The weather is hot and pools are a wonderful place to cool off but they are also dangerous. If you would like more information about swim lessons please call the experts at SWIMkids USA at (480) 820-9109.

Why SWIMkids USA began

SWIMkids USA has won the Healthcare Leadership award for community impact given by AZ Business magazine. The award reflects the hard work of staff and the passion and direction of Lana Whitehead who started her business back in 1971.We thought this was a great opportunity to share Lana’s story of why SWIMkids USA began.

My story– By Lana Whitehead, Founder of SWIMkids USA

I began to develop the SWIMkids USA swim method when my first son was an infant. I knew how vitally important early swimming instruction was in the southwest. The sharply increasing number of home swimming pools in the warmer climates had contributed to the higher incidence of childhood drowning in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Also, by introducing my child to the water at an early age, I could help prevent the terror and resulting fear which often accompanies a negative aquatic experience.
In 1971, I started taking my son Lance to the YMCA in Pleasant Hill California to get him acclimated to water. He was only four months old at the time. The experience was so bonding and enjoyable for the both us, that he was paddling underwater and floating on his back in a matter of weeks. The director of the Y observed our private water sessions and asked me to develop a baby program for their facility. The classes were popular and grew very quickly. The next thing we knew, our program was being featured on all the San Francisco Bay area news programs.
During 1972 when our program was in its infancy, a friend’s son was found floating in her parent’s backyard pool. After days of stay in the intensive care unit with no improvement in his condition, three-year-old  Todd was removed from life support. I was there when my friend, Trutti on the advice of physicians had to make the decision to take her son off the breathing machines. Todd and my son Lance had been playmates in their nursery, primary and Sunday school classes since they were infants.
I will never forget the sadness I felt for Todd’s sweet mother as she made the selfless decision to let him leave this life in peace. A year later another sweet sister from church lost her three-year-old son in a similar backyard drowning. After experiencing these tragic deaths with my devastated friends, I vowed I would dedicate my life to water safety and drowning prevention. In 1974, I dedicated my first book “Incredible Swimfants” to the memory of Todd Gleason and Brian Westburg. Two precious young boys who were tragically robbed of full lives because they were unacquainted with water safety techniques and there were no barriers around the pools.
After moving to Arizona in 1998 we were contacted by NBC to publicize baby swimming. Since that time, SWIMkids USA has been featured on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, CBS Morning Show, That’s Incredible, Omni Medical Documentary, Montel Williams Show, PM Magazine and numerous local news broadcasts as advocates for water safety and drowning prevention.

SWIMkids USA has assumed a leadership role in drowning prevention awareness and demonstrated outstanding achievement in creating awareness of proven drowning prevention strategies with its regular speaking appearances at conferences all over the world. We have made a significant contribution to improve water safety and successfully promoted the use of new drowning prevention technologies by developing the SWIMkids USA method which has taught over 50,000 children. SWIMkids USA is viewed as an advocate for drowning prevention by increasing public attention at the policy making level by appearing regularly in the media, and authoring five books on the subject.

Come to class with me! How an invite changed my life.

By Marie Carter –  Gymnastics Director/SWIMkids USA

Growing up, I was always a relatively active child. The two things I loved in life were my friends and anything that got me moving or out of the house!

It didn’t take long for my grandparents and mom to notice this. My grandma jumped at the opportunity to enroll me in swim lessons from a young age. Then volleyball and softball quickly came after. I remember how much I enjoyed the games or team parties because I was surrounded by all my teammates who were also among my best friends. Having an opportunity to see all of them weekly was reason enough for me to enjoy being involved in sports teams!

However there was one day I will never forget when my best friend (the “we can’t be separated” type of best friend) asked me to go with her to her new gymnastics class.

I’m sure my thoughts went as follows-

  • My best friend would be there 🙂

  • something new!

  • getting out of the house

  • meeting new friends!

The class was one of the hardest classes I had done but I LOVED it. All I remember from that first class was how in my head I was pretending I was an Olympic athlete. I was trying to emulate their finesse on the spring floor which was so much fun and from that moment on I consistently begged my mom and grandparents to invest in gymnastics.

After I had caught the gymnastics bug, this same friend asked me to try out for the cheer squad. Again my thoughts ran through my screening process; best friend, something new, getting out of the house and meeting new friends!

Marie image1Before I knew it I was on a cheer squad going to games, practices and competitions! This is where I discovered I had the heart of a performer. I found my stride and loved every minute of it. Whether it was a  half time performance or competing at nationals, the important thing to me was that  I was making lasting friendships and gained a new confidence in myself.

I know that’s why I hold “Bring a friend to gym” week and the upcoming showcase so dear to my heart. As silly as it sounds – and permit me to be cheesy for just a bit – I might not be where I am today without my friend asking me to attend her gym class. I found a love of the sport, which then lead me to seek out a job teaching and oddly enough lead me to be newly engaged to an amazing guy that I met here at SWIMkids USA! 🙂

SWIMkids USA Gymnastics Events ScrollSharing what you love with those around you makes for happier children and adults. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who did that with me. 🙂

Ho Ho Holiday Gratitude

Happy December. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to you for making your family a part of our family!

Reflecting on the past year, we are tremendously grateful SWIMkids USA received numerous prestigious awards that distinguished our organization and our leadership as best-in-class.

We appreciate knowing these designations are validations that we’re on the right track with the specific methodology we follow to help children love to learn.

This year’s honors include:

  • 2015 Best Aquatic Program – Arizona Parks & Recreation Association
  • 2015 Most Admired Leader, Lana Whitehead – Phoenix Business Journal
  • 2015 Best Place to Work – The Arizona Republic
  • 2015 Best of Mesa Recreational Activity – East Valley Tribune newspaper
  • 2015 Safety Geek Award – Maricopa County Safe Kids Coalition
  • 2015 Adolph Kiefer Safety Commendation Award, Lana Whitehead – USA Swimming. (This highly prestigious honor from USA Swimming Convention goes to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to safe swimming in the United States.)

Here are more things we are grateful for!

Melissa Sutton: I am grateful for my family, health and work and for the heightened way that during the holiday season we often think of others. We try to visit family more often during this time or reach out to friends and family we haven’t spoken with in a while. When I was a child, we used to go out to the family’s 40 acres and spend hours searching for the perfect Christmas tree to cut down, haul back and set up in our living room.Those trips also included instructions on how to get the tree down (if in a dense part of the forest) and how to drag it out – especially on those instances we had hiked a mile in. And then, the decorating began! That was worth every moment of cold and hiking through snow up to my waist. Oh, how I loved to decorate the tree – and still do!

Nathan Askins: I am so grateful for all the wonderful families and children that I have been blessed to teach this year. They all have played such a wonderful part in my life and I am so happy to know all of them. On Christmas when I was a kid, my sisters and all my cousins would sleep over at my grandparents’ house. We would wake up early and my grandpa (who loved Christmas more than any kid) would line us up youngest to oldest. He would bring us to the door that led us to our Christmas present. He would let each child peek through the door for a millisecond, building up the anticipation before Christmas morning began!

Shaunna Risinger: I am grateful for my family. I am also grateful for being able to work with so many amazing families and little ones each day. I love my work family and I have the best boss anyone could ask for! My favorite would have to be road tripping to Arizona for Christmas with my family. I loved spending Christmases out here as I grew up in Michigan and loved packing shorts and t-shirts for a December/January trip. SO many great memories were made on these trips.

Britt Kimball: I am thankful for my job at SWIMkids USA because I know I’ve made a difference in the lives of my students. As an aquatic instructor, I equipped my students with the skills they need to be safer in an emergency. I taught them how to live active, healthy lives. I built muscle, smiles and brain power. I can share these ideals because Lana Whitehead has taught me how to articulate them. She started SWIMkids USA because water safety is her passion, which inspires my passion as well. I truly think that the curriculum she created is the best in the country


Baby CPR – These three things may surprise you!

When Amanda Acuna’s daughter was a baby, one minute her girl was eating Cheerios in her high chair and quick-as-a-wink, the next minute, her daughter was choking.

“I thankfully was able to quickly draw on specific choking management strategies I had learned in a CPR class,” Acuna recalls. “I was able to perform a series of back blows to dislodge the Cheerio.”

The hope is that we’ll never be put in the scary position of having to save a baby’s life, but the truth is there are many quick-as-a wink situations that can and do happen. Babies can and do choke on food or slip under the water in a pool or a bath tub, the list goes on.

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and it is a lifesaving procedure you can perform when an accident happens. CPR is often used in drowning and drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 in Arizona.

In addition to being a mom who expertly helped her child in a choking situation she is a master aquatics instructor, lead StarGuard/ASHI Trainer and CPR instructor for SWIMkids USA.

Here are the top three things she says often surprise parents about CPR.

1) CPR for infants is different than CPR for adults and children!
“That’s because all three have a different body-size and lung-size,” explains Acuna. “It’s important to choose a course that provides training for all three: infant, child and adult CPR (like we provide at SWIMkids USA ).”

2) Most CPR classes will also have a part about choking strategy.

3) CPR DOUBLES a person’s chance of survival in an emergency.
“When someone has an emergency where their heart can’t pump blood through their body efficiently, cells begin to die and brain cells die within minutes, resulting in permanent damage after only 4-6 minutes,” Acuna explains. “With effective CPR, a rescuer can move oxygenated blood to the brain to help those brain cells stay alive.”

CPR makes a difference. Be the one who makes a difference.

SWIMkids USA has a mission to save lives, and family education is a part of that. We encourage every family to provide layers of protection against drowning. These layers include supervision, barriers (like pool fences), swimming lessons, and CPR. Drowning incidents leading in death are greatly reduced when more layers of protection are in place. This is why we offer drowning prevention education, survival swimming lessons, and CPR classes.
Amanda Acuna teaching
<img src=”https://swimkidsusablog.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/infant-cpr-photo.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition! The FAST TRACK to success.

Koryne at practiceKoryne ballet photo
Here’s a quote that caught my attention today! “A baseball swing is a very finely tuned instrument. It is repetition, and more repetition, then a little more after that.” (Reggie Jackson, 1984)

That quote is courtesy of the inspiring former baseball player who was nick-named “Mr. October” because of his talent for coming up with the “big” hit.

Reggie Jackson was the athlete who could make the game deciding-hit for his team and repetition was his secret to success.

We have an awesome little swimmer at SWIMkids USA and Desert Thunder Aquatics Swim Club who makes a difference for her team. Her name is Koryne and she has set 8 team records during her four years with SWIMkids USA!

Koryne, age 6, goes to work out with her DTAC Swim Club 8 & Under swim team not just one time a week. She goes every Tuesday and Friday.

Her coach, Justin Richardson will tell you that her best stroke is butterfly and her greatest accomplishment this year is “making it to the swim team at such a young age, and completing the 100 individual medley on her first try without disqualifying”.

Coach Justin says is her secret to success is exactly the same as that of “Mr. October”. “It is her consistency in practice, a true passion for the water and her regular swim meet and practice attendance,” Richardson says.

Koryne’s mom, Eunice agrees, repetition, repetition, repetition!

“Koryne constantly pushes herself to do better, besides practices and meets, she takes it upon herself to practice at home almost daily,” Eunice says.

Everyone who has had the pleasure of watching Koryne agrees, this young lady’s determination and love for the sport of swimming at such a young age is exceptional.

In her free time, Koryne studies ballet, gymnastics and plays soccer.

For athletes like Koryne, SWIMkids USA created .FAST TRACK It runs between Sept. and Feb.as a way for families to save money when they sign their child up for a second weekly activity.

SWIMkids USA Founder Lana Whitehead says another bonus of FAST TRACK is that winter is the best time to take swim lessons because outdoor home pools are too cold for practice. “If young children discontinue their lessons during colder months, they tend to lose the swim skills they have been learning all summer,” Whitehead says. “When they continue their lessons during the Fall and Winter, their progression continues preparing them for the skills they need to be safer and more proficient around water.”

Year-round swimming participation accelerates the physical, cognitive and social development of our little athletes. Because we are all so inspired by Koryne we used her as the model in our ad this month! Check it out in the September editions of AZ Parenting magazine and SWIMkids USA ad September 2015 AZ Parenting