For generations, people of all ages have benefitted from the therapeutic properties of water immersion, swimming and other forms of aquatic activity. But an in-depth piece of research from Swim England, the National Governing Body for aquatics, has made it clearer than ever that water-based activity is having a life-changing impact on society. The Value of Swimming report revealed how swimming positively contributes to physical and mental wellbeing, to individual and community development, and helps to reduce the burden to the UK's health and social care system.
The report found that regular swimming saves the NHS more than 357 million pounds each year, reducing the number of visits to GPs and reducing the dependence on care for a range of conditions. According to the analysis, the largest health savings are made in the areas of dementia (£139,546,106), strokes (£100,046,173), diabetes (£37,446,191), colon cancer (£10,433,330), breast cancer (£9,830,341) and depression (£9,501,792). Swim England Chief Executive, Jane Nickerson, Jane said: “Swim England is incredibly proud of this research which helps us confirm what those of us who work in swimming already know to be true – that swimming is incredibly valuable. “It is valuable both to the individuals who we know are healthier and happier because of swimming and also valuable to society – helping to ease the pressures on our precious NHS and build more connected communities. “We at Swim England will continue to play our part, but it is only with concerted action in partnership with government, health professionals and the wider swimming sector that we can get a nation swimming and ensure that everyone enjoys the resulting benefits.”
The Value of Swimming report follows the publication of Swim England's Health Commission report, The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming, which consisted of a number of reviews of the evidence around the health benefits of swimming and broader aquatic activity. This work has led to a national programme - Water Wellbeing- which is led by Swim England but supported by leisure operators across England.
Water Wellbeing tests the pathways and processes that best support people with long-term health conditions to become more active and sustain positive behaviour change. One of the models of delivery being tested through the programme is Good Boost, an aquatic rehabilitation application which uses artificial intelligence to provide tailored aquatic exercise programmes, delivered through waterproof tablet pc’s on poolside for individuals with MSK and other associated conditions. Early evaluation of the programme has demonstrated a 48 per cent reduction in pain after five sessions of Good Boost, 50 per cent functional improvement after four sessions and 57 per cent improvement in quality of life after six weeks. Swimming for all In partnership with London Marathon Charitable Trust, Swim England is also working to improve access to pools, with 20 centres across the country receiving funding to create inclusive swimming environments.
This includes funding to install Poolpods, which provide dignified access to those unable to use steps or other means to get into pools. Stephen, who recently lost his right leg as the result of an accident when he was a teenager, has been able to exercise in the water as a result of the Poolpod. “It's difficult to explain to someone, but when you spend most of your day sitting in a wheelchair, when you finally get to the pool and you can get into the water, your body just feels so much lighter - it's like freedom,” he said.
“My daughter is 18 months old and she loves the water. The Poolpod has made a great difference for me getting in and out of the pool with my daughter and just spending quality time with her.” A new qualification has been developed by Swim England Qualifications to support the programme, allowing exercise professionals who are normally engaged in land-based exercise referral programmes to better understand the properties and benefits of supporting people in water, particularly as around 30-40 per cent of participants on some of the aquatic offers around England have stated that land-based activity is too painful and unmanageable for them. This demonstrates just how important aquatic activity is for people with multi-morbidities. Swim England have also developed health fact sheets, to support members of the public, but also leisure operators, coaches and health professionals in developing a better understanding around the benefits of water with specific health conditions. The fact sheets also break down some of the misconceptions people may have around aquatic activity, with guidance currently available on swimming with asthma, diabetes, mental health, dementia, epilepsy, ear infections, glandular fever and skin conditions, with more subject areas to be released in 2020.
Swim England’s national Love Swimming campaign has recently celebrated the achievements of adults who have conquered a fear of water or learnt to swim at a later age. Martin Barnes learned to swim after being referred to the pool by his doctor to help treat Ankylosing Spondylitis He said: “When I got to 60, I had the time to get involved and I wanted to give it a go. I was a little nervous but the fact that it was adult swimming lessons comforted me as I was with people in the same boat. “It’s a no-shame environment as you’re around people who have been in the same position. "New people come into our lessons and it’s great to give them support. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go with others that could do it as you just have that feeling of embarrassment but there was nothing to be ashamed of. “Swimming has definitely helped my back – it’s been a big contribution to helping this. "My spine stiffens up and so swimming has been brilliant to release this and stop it from being stiff." Swim England will continue to share the positive benefits of swimming, with the next wave of the Love Swimming campaign set to launch in spring 2020.
Andrew Power, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Swim England said: “It is so important that the swimming pool isn’t seen as being off limit to anyone and it’s exciting to see forward-thinking leisure operators around England embracing a positive and inclusive culture around poolside activity through our Water Wellbeing programme. “With the support of health care professionals raising awareness of aquatic activity in those who would benefit most, we could see a significant shift in people experiencing the physical and mental wellbeing benefits that being active in the water has to offer. “Therefore, we are keen to engage with health care professionals around how we can make this possible.” To find out more about the work of Swim England around health and wellbeing please visit swimming.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.