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A life jacket is a must-have for people who can't swim.
Many people don't learn how to swim until they are adults, so if this is you, you're not alone. According to a 2000 study published in "Public Health Reports," 37 percent of Americans can't swim 24 yards. If you're anxious about learning how to swim, a flotation device can help ease your mind and allow you to concentrate on swimming rather than safety.
Life jackets are the gold standard for the prevention of drowning because you don't have to hold onto them or have any special skills to use them. They keep you floating even in rough water, which makes them an ideal choice for adults who need to learn the basics of swimming strokes and kicking. Most life jackets are structured as vests with several clips to hold them in place. Your vest should be snug, but not so tight that you're uncomfortable or struggle to move. If you're swimming in open water or have never mastered the basics of swimming, consider wearing a life jacket for your first few swimming lessons. As you gain skill, you may want to ditch the life jacket so you can independently learn to float.
A swimming float is similar to a life jacket but is designed to be held rather than worn. It can be used as both a rescue device and as a flotation device to help prevent drowning. Floats come in a variety of colors and styles but usually resemble cylindrical bags filled with flotation-supporting materials. Using a float is a good step up from a jacket because you can hold it as needed, graduate to holding it with just one hand and then abandon it entirely once you can float on your own.
A kickboard isn't designed to prevent drowning but can be a good transitional swimming aid if you're still anxious about floating without assistance. Kickboards are typically flat and made of foam or similar materials. Some come with handles designed to help you properly grip the device while you swim. The primary benefit of a kickboard is that it helps to support your torso, enabling you to learn how to kick without struggling to stay afloat. With a kickboard, you'll notice that the lower half of your body floats better when you're actively kicking and this can help you master proper swimming technique.
Pool toys -- such as floating recliners and water noodles -- offer some flotation assistance. However, these devices aren't designed to prevent drowning or ensure pool safety. Noodles are typically long cylindrical foam devices, while most other pool toys are inflated with air to aid flotation. If you're steadily mastering the basics of swimming and only want some reassurance, a pool toy might help. But you should not rely on these toys to keep you safe and should never swim alone with only the assistance of a pool toy. Instead, try using a pool toy as a form of support as you become a more accomplished swimmer. For example, you might swim across the pool while holding a pool noodle to gain some additional support for your weight.