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Swimming has been a ‘saviour’ for Rachel’s mental and physical health

Rachel Jack feared she might never be able to have a normal day out with her children again after being diagnosed with a chronic condition – until going swimming transformed her life.

The 39-year-old, from Emsworth, suffers from Chronic Vestibular Migraines, which she describes as ‘your balance system falling out with your brain’.

As part of the latest #LoveSwimming campaign, Rachel explains how swimming had also been a ‘saviour’ for her mental and physical health.

At first it was hard for doctors to pin down what was wrong, but the condition has meant practically daily discomfort – making exercise far less straightforward.

With fears that her condition may at one point take over her life, Rachel is elated that swimming has given her back independence and the confidence to be active.

She reflected: “It took me an entire year to receive my diagnosis, so it’s been a really long journey – but my happy place is in the water.

“I have always swum, but it is because of my health condition that I have really got into it and felt the benefits of swimming.

“I essentially have 24/7 pressure in my head, and as I’m unable to tolerate medication it’s so important to use exercise as a way to cope.

Swimming boosted my confidence

“Even the journey to being diagnosed, accepting the condition and the stress and worry that brought – for a long time I had been terrified about what my life might be reduced to, and swimming has just completely boosted my confidence.

“I took some time to get in and go for it, but now I’m definitely my happiest in the water. I’ve built up my exercise levels over time, and because in water I am less reliant on my balance system – I am able to just feel free.

“I’m a regular at my local pool, and I’m very grateful to the facilities available to me to manage my health and wellbeing.

“Swimming has had an absolutely transformative effect on my physical and mental health. The improvement in how I feel is amazing, it’s just been so beneficial to me personally.

“I’ve made it my passion and tried my hand at open water swimming as well, which has been an absolute joy.

“I cannot stress enough how much freedom and relief swimming has given me.”

Many others like Rachel with chronic conditions rely on access to pools – and regular visits translate into tangible economic benefits, with weekly swimming participation in England saving the NHS and our social care system more than £357 million a year.

Yet Swim England has found that the South East alone is projected to have a shortage of 124 pools by 2030.

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.

Swim England chief executive, Jane Nickerson, spoke on the profoundly positive effect of swimming on the health of the nation, which becomes even more significant coming out of the pandemic.

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.”

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