SWIMMING is great for burning calories, improving your muscular infrastructure and helping children sleep, so it’s no wonder Sheffielders are so keen to dive in, as Rachael Clegg discovers.
THE MOORHEAD family don’t spend their spare time parked in front of the television.
In this family, there isn’t much time for that.
Instead, the family is busy swimming - whether training for a triathlon or having a leisurely splash.
Mum Victoria, 39, who lives near Norfolk Park, has been taking both her children swimming to Ponds Forge and the University swimming pool since they were babies.
“I took Daniel swimming from him being ten weeks-old because as a baby he wouldn’t settle so I wanted to tire him out. He would want feeding every hour for 24 hours and I was desperate for some rest.”
Victoria continued to take Daniel - who’s now 15 - swimming and when her daughter, Olivia - now 12 - was born three years after Daniel, Victoria did the same with her, taking her to regular classes from being a baby.
It did the trick. The exercise meant that Victoria could steal a couple of hours rest while the children slept.
And even as the children grew up, Victoria would be there, week-in, week-out, at the side of the pool at swimming galas and lessons.
“They started swimming for the City of Sheffield - they knew the importance of keeping active but they realised they weren’t the kind of people who wanted to spend every weekend at swimming galas to they stopped eventually.”
But while Daniel and Olivia may have stopped competitive swimming, their early training had set them up for life.
Those early swimming sessions meant that Victoria’s children developed more blood vessels, which meant that future exercise - even after periods of no exercise, would be much easier, as blood vessels pump oxygen to the muscles.
“The fact they swam from being an early age meant that they developed extra blood vessels and their heart and lungs are bigger than they would have been had they not been swimmers as children. When you swim you are breathing out against resistance.”
“By taking your children swimming you are laying down the infrastructure to become really athletic.”
Not that the Moorhead children need any encouragement. Victoria already goes swimming twice a week as part of her triathlon training, her husband - a former triathlon competitor - occasionally joins her for training sessions and the children sometimes join in too.
“Sport is a big part of our life as a family and if children see their parents doing sport it stops is being a big deal. I suppose it’s leading by example.”
Almost 16 per cent of people in the city swim at least once a month, compared to less than 10 per cent for each of the other sports polled.
This means that Sheffield’s swimming participation is three per cent higher than both the Yorkshire and England average.
Steve Brailey, chief executive at Sheffield International Venues, which runs Ponds Forge, said: “Swimming has a universal appeal because people of all ages and abilities can take part and at SIV we cater for everyone, whether you are new to the water or an experienced swimmer, old or young.”
Victoria agrees. “Swimming’s not seen in the same light as running on a treadmill or jogging, people view it as a leisurely activity and as a result it’s popular. I was standing in a lift once with these young girls and they were discussing what exercise to do and one of them said ‘I might go swimming but that’s not really exercise is it?”
In fact, swimming is one of the best forms of exercise you can do for burning calories.
Olympic gold-winning Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day.
His diet includes three fried egg sandwiches for breakfast - clearly, swimming burns fat.
But it’s also something that elderly people and those suffering with joint problems can take part in without feeling out of place.
“People can feel uncomfortable going to a gym and running on a treadmill if they haven’t done any exercise for a while but swimming is easy to join in with and people don’t feel intimidated.”
At least they don’t until they see the super-fit Moorheads speeding down the lanes at Ponds Forge.
But perhaps we should all take inspiration from the Moorheads - so dig out the goggle and dive in!