Swimming is my way of trying not to be a burden on the NHS, says 72-year-old Diana

Six days a week at 6.30am, 72-year-old Diana Hargreave would pop down to her local pool in Ely, Cambridgeshire. Here, she explains why swimming is so important to her and the disappointment of not being able to swim in the second national lockdown.

For Diana Hargreave, the reasons for getting up at a ‘ridiculously early hour’ to head to Ely’s Hive Leisure Centre are clearly evident.

“Swimming early in the morning is very important to my day-to-day life,” she said. “It’s my way of keeping as fit as possible and trying not to be a burden on the NHS.

“I am not a ‘good’ swimmer – I hate putting my head under the water and can only do breaststroke. But I love it!

“It is a great motivator for getting up and feeling positive about the day.

“And the mental health side is no less important – the benefits you get out of a regular swim are immeasurable.

“I love the silky feel of the water, walking down the steps and into that first stretching whole body glide, watching and listening to the water as I move through.

“Swimming is definitely a stress reliever. I have thought through many things, sometimes problems, sometimes not – just organising thoughts. I’ve composed many an email and written many a letter whilst swimming up and down.

“It is a great way to emerge with less weight, both mental and physical.”

In addition to the myriad of positive effects swimming has on her life, Diana expresses how ‘safe’ her pool has felt with new measures in place to make it Covid-secure.

“It feels like a wonderfully safe environment in these awful times,” she said.

“There are such excellent systems that have been put in place to keep us safe: one way systems, booking slots to keep the numbers at a safe level, social distancing in the chlorinated water, plenty of gel stations and it is efficiently run.

Doesn’t make any sense

“It feels safer than going to the supermarket.”

Diana says pools should remain open in lockdown as so many rely on the water for their only form of exercise.

“I am lucky enough to be mobile and although I went for a walk each day in the previous lockdown, it wasn’t such a satisfactory way of keeping fit,” she said.

“Some people who swim at the same time as me and are of a similar age are less mobile – arthritis, replacement knees and hips so they can’t go for walks.

“This is their way of keeping as mobile as possible.

“Because it is a whole body exercise but not weight bearing, I can feel the good it is doing all my muscles – pulling with my arms, pushing with my legs – and I am also raising my heart rate with effort that doesn’t feel like too much thanks to the water.

“On resumption of swimming, it easily took three to four weeks before I was able to swim the same number of lengths as before.

“I do try and swim as hard as I can for about 30 minutes and I noticed a lessening in flexibility when there was no swimming during the last lockdown.

“I am sorry not to be able to keep swimming in lockdown. The benefits of the daily swim, both mental and physical, far outweigh any possible risk as I understand that rates of infection associated with pools are extremely low.

“It doesn’t make any sense.”

Swim England has been campaigning for the Government to #OpenOurPools and further information is available by clicking here.