Swimming is the propulsion of the body through water by a combination of arm and leg motions, as well as the natural flotation of the body, which is done for recreation and sports. Swimming as a form of exercise is popular because it is a great all-around body developer. It is also particularly beneficial in therapy and as an exercise for physically challenged individuals. It is also taught for the purpose of saving lives. In addition to swimming, there are other water-based activities to consider such as diving, lifesaving, surfing, synchronised swimming, underwater diving, and water polo.
In Egypt, archaeological and other evidence indicates that swimming was practised as early as 2500 BCE. Swimming was also practised in the Assyrian, Greek, and Roman civilizations in the following centuries. Swimming was a part of martial training in ancient Greece and Rome, and it was also a part of male elementary education, along with learning the alphabet. Swimming has been practised in the Orient at least since the 1st century BCE, with evidence of swimming competitions in Japan dating back to that time period. By the 17th century, an imperial edict had made the teaching of swimming in schools a requirement for all students. Swimming competitions were held in Japan in the nineteenth century, before the country was opened to the rest of the world. Swimming was evidently taught to children as early as the age of walking among the preliterate maritime peoples of the Pacific, if not earlier. There is evidence of occasional races among the ancient Greeks, and a famous boxer trained in the water as part of his preparation. Swimming pools, as opposed to baths, were constructed by the Romans. The Roman Gaius Maecenas is credited with constructing the world’s first heated swimming pool in the first century BCE.
With its inclusion in the modern Olympic Games, which began in 1896 and have been held every four years since, competitive swimming gained international prominence. Originally, only men competed in Olympic events, but in 1912, women were allowed to compete as well. Before the formation of the FINA, the Games featured a number of unusual competitions. In 1900, for example, when the Games’ swimming competitions were held on the Seine River in France, a 200-metre obstacle race required athletes to climb over a pole and under a line of boats before swimming under them to finish. After the International Swimming Federation (FINA) took over, such anomalies were no longer an issue. Under FINA regulations, race lengths became increasingly measured in metres for both Olympic and other international competition, and world records for yard-measured races were abolished in 1969. It was decided that only freestyle (crawl), backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly would be allowed as strokes during the competition. In the individual medley races, all four strokes were utilised. Many countries, including Hungary, Denmark, Australia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and the United States, have dominated Olympic and world competition at various times in their history, including the United States.
The first instruction programmes were established in Great Britain in the nineteenth century, and they were for both sports and lifesaving. Those programmes were copied and distributed throughout the rest of Europe. Swimming instruction for lifesaving purposes began in the United States in 1916, under the auspices of the American Red Cross, and has continued ever since. Swimming instruction provided by the various branches of the armed forces during World War I and World War II was extremely effective in promoting the sport of swimming. Courses taught by community organisations and schools, which eventually reached infants as young as six months, became commonplace.