Spending my life in, on and around the water has provided me with benefits beyond compare.
Growing up, I enjoyed an array of activities in the water, such as boating, waterskiing, swimming, springboard diving, bodysurfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. We were constantly at the lake, beach or pool; making swimming skills a necessity.
The American Red Cross' Learn-to-Swim program was my first introduction to swimming lessons. My parents wanted me to become a strong swimmer for two main reasons; drowning is one of the leading causes of death among children, and learning to swim saves other people's lives.
Swimming offers many benefits, both physical and mental. Swimming can be enjoyed for a lifetime because there is no ground impact, which relieves stress on the body. Swimming improves endurance and fitness, and strengthens and tones muscles while burning calories. Athletes use swimming as a form of cross-training and an alternate form of exercise when recovering from injury.
I'm so thankful to my parents for my swim lessons and for inspiring my passion for the water. Since my youth, I have been lucky enough to live my dreams by working in aquatics the past 35 years.
I swam competitively for 21 years on age-group teams and masters' swim teams. Swimming with those groups let me benefit from swimming as well as meet amazing people, including Olympians Mark Spitz and John Naber.
After competitive swimming I opted for more vertical activities in the water. Such activities include water walking, with doesn't require the ability to swim, and deep-water running, which does. Both provide great workouts.
Here in the Northwest, Arne Hanna Aquatic Center and other indoor pools are a great place to relax and exercise year-round. Bellingham's civic pool, where I work, offers recreational swims as well as exercise classes and competitive swim teams.
Water exercise includes shallow and deep water aerobics, and arthritis exercise. The Arthritis Foundation strongly recommends water activities for exercise. That's because there's little to no ground impact, which protects the joints from stress and strain.
Swimming can give you opportunities that last a lifetime, including underwater exploration. Scuba diving and snorkeling can be physically demanding, but the rewards can be breathtaking.
Imagine diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and swimming surrounded by sea turtles, or diving with manta rays at night, or swimming with a pod of a hundred dolphins. I would not have had the same opportunities without my experience in the water.
Throughout my life I have profited greatly from swimming, and it can offer those benefits to anyone of any age. It's never too late to start.
Lori Jacobson is aquatics manager at Bellingham's Arne Hanna Aquatic Center. For information about the center, call 360-778-7665 or see cob.org/ahac.