Take the plunge - learn to swim

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Swimming is great exercise for young and old - not to mention a great life skill and lots of fun! If you never mastered the skill at school, why not take an adult course? You're never too old (or too young) to learn.

Mother and son in swimming pool
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Astonishingly, a recent survey revealed that one in five British children leaves primary school without mastering the basic skills but there are courses across the country that can change all that.

First of all, children can be introduced to the water at a very young age. The Swimming Teachers Association's (STA) Starfish award allows pre-school kids from as young as six months into the water, giving them confidence in the pool.

Most local pools offer a parent and baby swimming programme which allows mum or dad to introduce their tots to the water.

Of course once they go to school, swimming tuition is often available but it's a good idea for kids to take regular trips to the pool outside school hours. With extra curricular practice, whether via an after school course or simply with family-members, children can develop into strong and safe swimmers.

If you are not keen on providing the tuition as a parent, the STA has developed a swimming programme that includes not only the basic swimming skills but water safety too.

With an award scheme that sees children presented with badges and certificates as they progress, the International Swimming and Water Safety Standards initiative teaches children of all ages to swim at a pace that suits them.

And if you missed out on a swimming education as a youngster, never fear - you're never too old to start.

Adult swimming classes are available throughout the UK, often on a one-to-one basis, and many offer intensive courses. Qualified instructors will help you to get over your fear of the water, teach basic strokes and build your confidence until you are able to enjoy the health and fitness benefits of swimming.

Whether adult or child, the first port of call should be your local sports centre. The majority will be able to offer swimming lessons for both children and adults with qualified instructors and in a safe environment.

It's a good idea to make sure that the facility is registered with the National Federation of Swimschools as they will be regularly assessed to ensure high standards of safety and teaching.

But above all, take the plunge - whether with the children or just to keep fit, swimming is an excellent way to exercise... and it will make those holidays by the beach all the more enjoyable.