Swimming 'invaluable' to Howard Jacks after surgery threatened active lifestyle

Howard Jacks labels swimming as ‘invaluable’ to him following his hip surgery after he initially feared that his health and wellbeing would suffer.

The Wandsworth swimmer had to stop running as a result of his hip replacement in February 2020 and thought his active lifestyle was under threat.

However, Howard now swims three times a week at Latchmere Leisure Centre in Battersea and says the regular visits to the pool have transformed his mental and physical health.

The 75-year-old first learned swim to swim at the age of 18 and believes it has given him the confidence to remain active throughout life – even after a major surgery.

He shared his story as part of the latest #LoveSwimming campaign, saying: “Swimming has been a big part of my life for a while – one of the memories I have is going caving and accidentally falling in a pothole full of water!

Time in the pool is therapeutic

“It’s because I had learnt to swim, I didn’t panic, and felt comfortable until I could get out. Whilst I hope other don’t fall victim to this fate, it just shows what an important life skill swimming is.

“Since my hip surgery, I have found my time swimming to be invaluable. It takes the pressure off your body but is still brilliant exercise. I try and vary my strokes and make it a decent workout.

“Mentally, it has been as important as the physical benefits it brings. For me personally, the time in the pool is therapeutic, and I can just go into switch-off mode and enjoy myself.

“For my mental health I’ve found it to be a really great help, especially given the stress and anxiety of the last year or so with the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, I got Covid only a few weeks ago, but have now fully recovered – and I like to think keeping healthy and swimming regularly has helped support my body and mind.

“My pool, Latchmere Leisure Centre, is very special to me, and I feel comfortable there.

“That’s one of the most important things – that the pool can be a pillar of the community.

“I can’t understate how valuable swimming has been for me in every sense. Even in my drama school days, the breath control I learnt and developed through swimming served me well! I don’t have any plans to stop at all, I want to be swimming for as long as I can.”

Swim England chief executive, Jane Nickerson, added that it was ‘vital’ that the value of swimming pools to local communities be recognised.

She said: “It is imperative that people’s physical and mental wellbeing is prioritised, and swimming is one of the most productive ways that this can be supported.

“We all know swimming as a life skill and as a great way to bring families and peers together but, especially coming out of an incredibly difficult 18 months with the pandemic, swimming can have a transformative impact on the nation’s mental and physical health.

“There are so many brilliant stories of how swimming has helped people manage or recover from health conditions, and it’s therefore vital that we recognise the value of pools to our communities.

“There is also an incredible social benefit to swimming in reducing loneliness – those who swim are more than 25 per cent less likely to have no friends at all compared to non-swimmers.”

Swimming’s clear health benefits were outlined by Swim England in an open letter this week to the Government’s Department of Health and Social Care, upon the creation of a dedicated office for Health Improvements and Disparities to lead the national efforts to improve the health of the nation.

The hope is to build upon previous successes with Public Health England, such as including the unique benefits of swimming into the ‘Physical Activity Clinical Champions’ training curriculum.