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SwimWest Wants Swimmers Of All Ages To Love The Water

By Pamela Sosnowski

Swimming for exercise offers many benefits: it's a low-impact form of fitness that builds cardiovascular and muscle strength, and can be enjoyed alone or with others. At SwimWest Swim School of Fitchburg, the staff believes that everyone can reap the benefits of swimming at any age, whether the person is four months old or a senior.

"I fell in love with swimming and with teaching children to swim during one of my college jobs," says owner Karen Kittelson. "I have a degree in sports management/exercise physiology and wanted to use it in helping others. I was a non-swimmer as a child, and learned through my college classes. My dream was to own a fitness center; however, once I started a Learn to Swim program, I found that was were my true passion was: helping children and families find a life long love of the water."

The school was launched 1990, and offers lessons and programs for swimmers of all ages and abilities. A water acclimation class gets new and/or apprehensive swimmers used to the water, whether they are babies, children, or adults. Lessons progress through beginner acclimation and water safety, to stroke introduction and finally advanced stroke techniques and diving.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the recreational activity and sport is that the littlest swimmers can easily learn it. "Swimming is the earliest physical activity that babies can participate in since they do not need to be able to walk, crawl or sit up to swim," explains Kittelson.

"The benefits of getting children in the water at an early age are immense! When we place an infant in the water they begin to develop skills related to floating in a supportive yet fluid environment, similar to the womb. They are stimulated by the water and their parents' hands. They learn breath control, balance, and buoyancy. They stimulate those synaptic neurons in their brain. Studies have proven that children that learn to swim at an early age are more advanced in physical, emotional and intellectual intelligence."

SwimWest has also been teaching water fitness classes to seniors at the west Madison location since 1995 each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 AM and noon. The water is kept warm for the enjoyment of the classes, and provides a low-stress, low-impact way for participants to stay flexible and active. But more than a way to obtain exercise, Kittelson says it has also "become an hour of friendship. It is one big extended family (and) after the fitness class, the participants go to breakfast together and socialize."

In 2003 SwimWest partnered with Badger Gymnastics Academy of Madison to provide a summer day camp for children ages 5 to 13. In addition to their daily swim lesson, campers enjoy a variety of sports such as soccer and football as well as court games, crafts, and gardening. "There is a new theme each week that guides the campers through their daily play and incorporates at least one field trip," says Kittleson. "By the end of the day, campers leave happy and tired!"

To learn more and register for a swimming lesson, interested students can visit the school's website at www.swimwest.com.

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