Swimming has hugely contributed to my health ... and I still feel the benefits at 77

A new report commissioned by Swim England has revealed how swimming is having a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of the nation. Here, Jim Bourlet explains why he values swimming.

Jim Bourlet is in no doubt that swimming has made a ‘huge contribution’ to his health.

The 77-year-old has been battling heart problems and has had both stents and a pacemaker fitted.

But he still swims 20 lengths every other day at his local pool, The Castle, in London – as it makes him ‘feel good’.

Jim’s comments back up statistics revealed by Swim England in its Value of Swimming report, which details the vital role swimming plays in preventing, and treating, physical and mental health conditions.

In the most rigorous research ever conducted by a national governing body, Swim England has revealed that swimming is saving the NHS and social care system £357 million a year.

More than £65 million pounds of that total is in London alone with the savings made up from:

  • Dementia £25,397,391
  • CHD Stroke £18,208,403
  • Reduced GP visits £9,290,799
  • Diabetes £6,815,207
  • Colon cancer £1,898,866
  • Breast cancer £1,789,122
  • Depression £1,729,326

Jim said: “I learned to swim when I was seven or eight-years-old – not many people learned to swim at that time but I learned in an open-air pool in Wiltshire.

“Having learned to swim, I always enjoyed it and 25 years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to swim every other day.

“I’ve never been a particularly good swimmer. I just do it for enjoyment and health purposes.

You have everything to gain from swimming

“To my surprise, 11 years ago, I was told I had heart disease with one blocked artery and a half-blocked artery. The hospital fixed it up with a couple of stents and I appeared perfectly all right.

“Then, last February, I had an atrial fibrillation which resulted in me having a modern version of a pacemaker installed.

“But I continued swimming every other day and it is helping to improve my heart condition so it has hugely contributed to my health.”

While his health is generally good, Jim still checks his pulse to ensure he is not suffering palpitations before he enters the water.

“If there are any signs of palpitations, I would leave the pool,” he said. “So, I’m still being a little bit cautious.

“But I’m still feeling the benefits of going swimming and I don’t see why I won’t be doing this for another 20 years.

“My message to anyone thinking about taking up swimming would be you have everything to gain from doing it.”

Other key findings in the Value of Swimming report include that swimmers are more likely to be socially connected – and 26.7 per cent are less likely to have no friends compared to non-swimmers

Jim agreed and added: “Swimming is a great thing.

“You do not have to organise anyone else, you can do it on your own and, when you get there, you have a choice if you don’t want to do very much.

“I’ve also found that there are regulars and you make friends.”