Swimming is a worldwide activity and sport with many values. The ability to swim can save one’s life. It’s healthy, not only for aerobic exercise, but also because it involves the entire body.

It can be safe for the body because water is supportive for the joints – shoulders, back, hips, knees, ankles – and water dissipates heat much better than air does.

Both physically and emotionally, efficient swimming produces comfortable feelings in the water.

However, swimming is not a natural act. Swimming like a fish, rather than struggling to stay afloat, is not instinctive to humans.

Rarely is a self-taught swimmer efficient in the water.

The quality of swim instruction can vary greatly, and inefficient habits are hard to change.

To glide and slide through the water like a fish is the swimmer’s goal. Efficient swimming is smooth, relaxed, rhythmic and almost effortless. Learning a variety of strokes, building a repertoire, can relieve boredom and challenge the swimmer to become efficient in several body positions.

Efficient swimming does not have to be fast, much less competitive, but competitive swimmers need to be efficient to be successful.

Future columns on this topic will focus on three simple ways to make swimming more efficient and enjoyable for you. Some topics will include: 1. Don’t fight the water; 2. Succeed by taking small steps, adding a new step only after the previous one has been well established; 3. Be purposeful, and focus completely on each small step without being in a hurry. All good things take time.

I hope that this column will encourage readers toward swimming participation for safety, health and exercise. There are pools throughout the area, including the Bluffton Indoor Pool, which is run by the Beaufort County Parks and Leisure Services, with well-trained lifeguards and water safety instructors.

Going forward, this column will address swimmers and would-be swimmers in several ways – basic understanding of the physics principles underlying efficient aquatic locomotion, simplifying what all efficient strokes have in common, how to develop each stroke, and motivation to extend swimming skills through endurance and by adding strokes that you might not otherwise attempt.

Above all, though, swimming is fun, and I hope to increase your enjoyment as you progress.

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor and coach who has recently published “Swim Better, A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors.” bobcolyer@yahoo.com.