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Swimming Lessons For Adults – Why It's Never Too Late To Learn

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Author Steven Grella is a veteran police detective, trained EMT and an American Red Cross swimming instructor.

Female swimmer in open water

Are You Too Old?

Many people believe that it's too late to learn how to swim once they've reached adulthood. After all, didn't everyone learn how to swim as a child? Isn't it a bit weird for an adult to be taking swimming lessons?

Actually, no – it's not weird at all! In fact, there are many benefits to learning how to swim as an adult. Did you know that while 80 percent of Americans said they knew how to swim, only 56 percent of them could perform all five basic skills needed to swim safely. You are not alone in wanting to learn how to swim and it is definitely not something to be shy about or ashamed of!

I'll discuss some of those benefits and dispel some of the myths about swimming lessons for adults. I'll also give you some tips on what to expect from swim lessons as an adult. So whether you're looking to overcome a fear of swimming or just want to learn a new skill, keep reading!

The Benefits of Learning To Swim As An Adult

There are many benefits to learning how to swim as an adult. Here are just a few:

Swimming is a great workout.

It's low-impact and can be very gentle on your joints. But don't let the gentleness fool you – swimming is actually a very effective way to get your heart rate up and burn calories. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, swimming can burn up to 650 calories per hour!

Swimming can be a great way to relieve stress.

The water is very calming and can help to clear your mind. It's also a great way to get some exercise without feeling like you're working out.

Swimming is a great way to meet new people.

If you take group swimming lessons, you'll be able to meet other adults who are also learning to swim. This can be a great way to make new friends and expand your social circle. If you're someone who loves being around people, consider joining a masters swim team or finding friends who also enjoy swimming. Swimming can be a great way to meet new people and make lasting friendships.

Swimming is a great way to travel.

If you know how to swim, you'll be able to enjoy many different activities while on vacation. Swimming in the ocean, swimming in lakes and rivers and going on adventures such as snorkeling or scuba diving trips are all made possible by an ability to swim.

Swimming is great for your mental health.

According to WebMD, swimming can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and even help fight depression.

Swimming can be therapeutic.

If you suffer from chronic pain or have any other physical ailments, swimming can be a great form of therapy. The water can help take the weight off your joints and muscles and allow you to move in ways that might not be possible on land.

As you can see, there are many benefits to learning how to swim as an adult.

What To Expect From Swim Lessons As An Adult?

If you're thinking about taking swimming lessons as an adult but are feeling a bit apprehensive, don't worry – you're not alone! Many adults feel nervous about taking swim lessons because they think they'll be the only ones in the class or because they're not sure what to expect. Here are a few things you should know about taking swim lessons as an adult:

Most classes will have other adults in them.

You're not the only one who wants to learn how to swim! Chances are, there will be other students in your class who are in the same boat (pun intended!) as you are.

Your instructor will go at your pace.

Don't worry about being left behind or not being able to keep up with the other students – your instructor will make sure that everyone is comfortable and progressing at their own individual pace.

You might have homework outside of class.

Just like any other class, you might have assignments that need to be completed outside of class time in order for you to fully understand the concepts taught in class. But don't worry – these assignments will usually be things like watching instructional videos or practicing drills on your own time. They won't be anything too strenuous or time-consuming.

old man making a mistake

Common Mistakes Made When Learning to Swim

There are a few common mistakes that people make when learning to swim.

First, many people try to learn how to swim without the help of a qualified swimming instructor. This is a mistake because a good instructor can teach you the proper techniques and help you avoid bad habits.

Second, many people try to swim without practicing regularly. This is a mistake because swimming is a skill that takes time and practice to master. Just like any other skill, you much practice with targeted effort and practice frequently enough to make progress. Swimming once or twice a month won't cut it if you want to make quick progress!

Another common mistake people make when learning to swim is not using the proper safety gear. Always make sure to wear a life jacket or other floatation device when swimming in open water. Additionally, be sure to stay within your depth range and never swim in areas with strong currents or undertows. When in a pool, take note of depth changes, typically noted by tile markings on the edge of the pool. A rope separating the shallow end from the deep end is also common and recommend for pools with weak or non-swimmers.

Finally, many people do not take the necessary safety precautions when swimming. Always swim with a partner and never swim dangerous conditions. I recommend starting to learn to swim in a pool. It is a more controlled environment that does not expose you to the elements and has clear visibility as opposed to swimming in open water or at your local watering hole.

Male swimmer swimming breast stroke

The Basics of Swimming

There are four basic strokes used in swimming: the freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke. The freestyle is the most common stroke used in swimming.


Freestyle, also known as front crawl, is the most common stroke used in swimming. To swim the freestyle, you will need to float on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you. Front crawl is a rotary stroke, meaning that your arms and legs move in opposite directions. The arm stroke begins with your hand entering the water just above your head, and then drawing a semicircle until it reaches your hip. Meanwhile, your kick starts with your knees bent and feet together, then extends straight back behind you before quickly snapping back up to your hips. This continuous cycle of arms and legs propels you through the water. When swimming freestyle, it's important to keep your head down and eyes focused on the bottom of the pool so you can ensure you're swimming in a straight line. Swimming with proper technique will help you move through the water more efficiently and prevent fatigue.

Breast Stroke

Swimming breast stroke is a great way to get exercise and enjoy the water. The technique is not difficult to learn, but it does take some practice. To move forward, you will need to kick your legs and move your arms in a alternating pattern. Here are a few tips to help you master the breast stroke:

1. Start by taking swimming lessons from a qualified instructor. This will ensure that you learn the proper technique and avoid any injuries.

2. When you are in the water, keep your head level with the surface of the water and look straight ahead. This will help you maintain good form and avoid getting dizzy. When I teach a breast stroke kick the command is "Up! Out! Together!". You will simultaneously bend at the knees and lift your lower legs up towards your back. You will then kick both legs out away from your body. Finally, whip your legs back together to their starting position.

3. Use a gentle kicking motion to propel yourself forward. Remember to keep your knees Bent and your feet together. If you need more speed, you can use a stronger kick.

4. As you swim, keep your arms close to your sides and use a smooth, even stroke. Avoid jerking your arms or throwing them out wide; this will only slow you down.

5. Practice swimming breast stroke regularly so that you can master the technique and build up your endurance. With a little practice, anyone can learn how to swim this relaxing and invigorating stroke.

Back Stroke

Back stroke is a good swimming stroke for beginners to learn because it's relatively easy and doesn't require a lot of coordination. Many people like the back stroke because you can relax more during the stroke and most importantly your face is out of the water. For adults that are hesitant to put their face in the water, the backstroke is ideal for them as you will not have your eyes in the water and you will be able to breathe regularly as your nose and mouth are above water at all times.

Here are a few tips on how to swim back stroke:

-When you're ready to start swimming, begin by floating on your back. Kick your legs slowly to move through the water and use your arms to keep yourself balanced.

-As you become more comfortable, you can start doing a backstroke kick. This involves kicking your legs up and down in a quick, coordinated motion. Try not to bend your knees too much and keep your feet in the water. If your feet are kicking air they are not helping to propel you!

- Finally, once you have the hang of the backstroke kick, you can start using your arms to pull yourself through the water. Remember to keep your arms straight and move them in a rhythm with your legs. A tip to remember with arm movement is "thumb out, pinky in". This means as you raise your arm out of the water you will blade your hand so that your thumb exits the water first. As your arm rotates out of the water like the arm of a clock, you will turn your hand so that your pinky re-enters the water first.

-When your hand is underwater your fingers should be closed to drag as much water as possible and pull with "cupped" hands. Do not extend your arm too deep, it is wasted movement and provides less power.


To swim the butterfly, you will need to float on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you. Swimming butterfly requires you to move your arms and legs in a synchronized way while keeping your head above water.

Butterfly is a challenging stroke and can be tiring, but it is also one of the most rewarding strokes to master. It is a great workout and can be used to improve your swimming technique for other strokes.

I do not recommend attempting butterfly until you have mastered the other three strokes. Done improperly, the butterfly stroke can be painful and cause shoulder injuries. Consult with a professional swim instructor before attempting the swim stroke on your own.

What to Bring to Swimming Lessons

Swimming lessons are a great way to improve your swimming skills and confidence in the water. But what should you be prepared to bring for your first day?

Bathing Suit

First, it's important to make sure that you are feel comfortable. You should be able to move freely and not feel restricted by your swim suit. Second, you'll want to consider the weather and water conditions. If it's cold outside, make sure you have a wetsuit or other warm clothing. It is recommend to win compression material that hugs close to your body such as a speedo or jammers for mean and a one-piece swimsuit for women.


A towel is an obvious item when getting out of the water, but you'd be amazed at how many people take this simple item for granted and are left driving home sopping wet and shivering because they forgot a towel.


Goggles help to protect your eyes from chlorine and other chemicals in the pool water. They also keep your eyes from getting irritated by the salt water if you're swimming in the ocean. In addition, goggles allow you to see clearly underwater, which is essential for avoiding obstacles. Check our top choice for goggles.


A kickboard is an essential piece of equipment for any swimmer who wants to improve their technique. By holding the kickboard in front of you, you can focus on kicking while keeping your upper body stationary. This helps to build strength in your leg muscles and also helps you to develop a more efficient kick. In addition, using a kickboard can also help you to swim with better posture. Since you are not moving your arms, you are less likely to hunch over and this can help you to avoid developing pain in your shoulders or neck. Kickboards are therefore an essential tool for any swimmer who wants to swim with better technique and avoid injury.

Pull Buoy

A pull buoy is a swimming tool that helps swimmers practice their technique while maintaining good body alignment. By holding the pull buoy between your legs, you can focus on using your arms and upper body to generate power and move through the water. This is a great way to work on your swimming stroke without having to worry about kicking. It's also a good way to build upper body strength. Using a pull buoy can help you swim faster and with better technique. So, if you're looking to improve your swimming, be sure to add a pull buoy to your training regimen.


Fins are often thought of as an essential piece of swimming gear, but their usefulness goes beyond simply helping swimmers move through the water. In fact, fins can be a valuable tool for swimmers of all levels who are looking to improve their technique. When used correctly, fins can help swimmers to maintain a proper body position, develop a more efficient kick, and increase their speed and agility. As a result, fins can be an invaluable asset for anyone who is serious about improving their swimming. While they may not be necessary for every swimmer, fins can definitely help those who are looking to take their practice to the next level.

Dive Sticks/Rings

When you're swimming laps in the pool, it can be easy to get lost in the monotony of it all. That's why it can be helpful to have a few dive sticks on hand. Not only do they add a bit of variety to your swim practice, but they can also be used to help improve your technique. By forcing you to reach down and touch the bottom of the pool, dive sticks can help you develop a better sense of body positioning and control. In addition, they can also help increase your speed and stamina as you swim from one end of the pool to the other. So, if you're looking for a way to add a little spice to your swim practice, be sure to grab a few dive sticks next time you hit the pool.


So there you have it! Now that you know what to expect from swim lessons as an adult, there's nothing stopping you from enrolling in a class and giving it a try! Learning how to swim is a great way to get exercise, meet new people, and relieve stress – so what are you waiting for?


It is my mission to help educate as many people as I possibly can in CPR, first aid and other lifesaving skills. I hope this article helped you to better recognize an emergency situation and why it is important to act quickly. Join my email list where I highlight lifesaving skills tips and keep you up to date with the latest safety trends.

Recommended Resources on If you're interested in learning more about lifesaving training, check out my in-depth guide How To Save A Life With CPR


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Hey, I'm Steve Grella, founder of Lifeguard LI. It is my mission to teach every capable person CPR and lifesaving skills. My only question is, do you have what it takes to save a life?


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Steve Grella is a father of two young boys. He is a Police Detective, EMT, lifeguard trainer and swim instructor, who brings over 20 years of knowledge and expertise in safety and service. He has dedicated his life to educating students in vital lifesaving training and now strives to provide expert resources to arm you with the skills and training to one day save a life if called upon.

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