Swimming is one of the most comprehensive sports out there because of its physical and mental health benefits. In childhood, its benefits are undeniable. In fact, it is a practice that can be carried out from the first months of the baby’s life.
As the Spanish Heart Foundation points out, swimming engages all muscle groups, improves physical performance and contributes to greater flexibility, coordination, agility and speed.
But as if that weren’t enough, it affects crucial health parameters, such as the following:
- Controls body weight and thus prevents obesity in children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)2, the overweight and obesity rate in Spain is currently the third highest among European countries. 80% of obese minors are also obese adults.
- Helps reduce cardiovascular risk variables. This lowers the concentration of cholesterol in the blood and also lowers glucose levels, as they are aerobic exercises that lead to greater insulin sensitivity. This is particularly important in children with diabetes, where it has been shown to reduce insulin requirements.
- Promotes relaxation. This is the case in all children, but at a physical level it is particularly observed in children suffering from neurological problems or cerebral palsy, since the aquatic environment, at an appropriate temperature, favors the relaxation of the central nervous system.
In addition, we must highlight the advantage of knowing how to move in the water and then swim to avoid accidents and drowning and to increase the child’s self-confidence. Swimming is also a remarkable source of sensory stimulation for children of all ages.
Be careful with chlorine in swimming pools
In contrast, chlorine in swimming pools is a chemical component that acts on the organic elements in the water. We’re talking about sweat, urine, saliva, cosmetics… but also bacteria, algae or other microorganisms.
What is the problem? Chlorine reacts immediately when it comes into contact with the organic matter present in all swimming pools. The result is the formation of chlorination byproducts that can be potentially harmful. In different ways: absorption of water, absorption through the skin and inhalation of vapors, warns the Geodesic company.
What harmful health effects can chlorine have? The Ministry of Health warns: “Although an acceptable residual level of chlorine provides a guarantee of disinfection, excessive levels of chlorine or its derivatives can cause eye irritation and even respiratory problems, especially in children and in enclosed environments such as heated swimming pools or spas.”
Various studies have highlighted the potential health disadvantages of chlorine:
- Due to the permeability of the lung epithelium, there is an increased risk of developing asthma and allergic diseases.
- Worsening of respiratory diseases. Because children’s lungs are developing, chlorine, even at acceptable concentrations, can worsen respiratory illnesses.
- Irritation of the mucous membranes such as the eyes and nose as well as damage to the teeth, as chlorine changes the pH value in the mouth and thus promotes the demineralization of the teeth.
- Changes in the functions and structures of the skin with the appearance of eczema.
This is what the Spanish Society of Clinical Immunology, Allergology and Pediatric Asthma (SEICAP) explains: “Chlorine is a compound that is irritating and triggers allergic reactions.” It can have effects on the respiratory tract and skin if a number of factors are increased : the amount, the time of exposure to the substance and the sensitivity of the skin. In general, children are always the most affected as they spend a lot of time in the water and also have more sensitive and delicate skin than adults.”
With this in mind, swimming in a chlorine-free pool can be a healthier and more beneficial option for swimming children. Therefore, it is important that parents and educators consider this option and always be mindful of ensuring their safety and well-being, Geodesic concluded.