Open water swimming gives me a sense of purpose ... it's my escape from everyday life

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, Suzie Wheway explains why she values swimming.

Open water convert Suzie Wheway says swimming outdoors has given her a sense of purpose.

The 38-year-old, from Whaley Bridge, in the Peak District, fully supports the findings in Swim England’s Value of Swimming report, which states swimming outdoors generates more than double the happiness compared to a swimmer who only visits a local pool.

“I was hooked from the first time I swam in open water,” said Suzie. “I always come out with an enormous grin on my face.”

After developing post-natal depression following the birth of her second child, Suzie attended a front crawl swim clinic – and fell in love with swimming.

It’s fair to say, it’s changed her life.

She is now a qualified swimming teacher and open water coach – and also agrees with the Value of Swimming report which states swimming doubles the self-confidence of women and girls.

Mum-of-two Suzie said: “Swimming is my thing. It’s my escape from normal, everyday monotonous life.

“It keeps me fit and has provided me with some community – it’s become my life and made me stronger as well as fitter, which in turn makes me feel mentally stronger too.

“Open water swimming offers companionship, conversation and community, as I regularly swim with others.

“Most of all, there’s the exhilaration and the ‘zing’.

“My self-esteem has built because it’s given me a purpose again, both for me and to support others to swim at the open water venue I help to run.”

Open water is the ultimate

Swim England’s Value of Swimming report outlines how water-based activity can make an even greater contribution to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the nation.

According to the research, swimming is helping to save the health and social care system in England more than £357 million pounds a year, £45.8 million of which is savings in the north west region.

Of this, more than £139 million pounds of savings alone are made in dementia health and social care – while £51 million is down to reduced GP and psychotherapy visits of adult swimmers compared to non-swimmers.

A further £9.5 million is saved treating people with depression – with £1.2 million of that total in the north west region alone.

Other key highlights from the report include:

  • The largest savings in the north west were in dementia (£17,861,902) and strokes (£12,805,910).
  • Other key savings are made in reduced GP visits (£6,534,189), diabetes (£4,793,112), colon cancer (£1,335,466) and breast cancer (£1,258,284).
  • Swimmers report feeling on average 6.4% healthier than non-swimmers – this is comparable to feeling 12 years younger
  • Adults who swim were 4.3% happier than non-swimmers.
  • The report highlights how swimming particularly benefits women and girls, more than doubling their self-confidence
  • Whilst in the last 12 months 14 million adults went swimming, the benefits to the nation could be even greater if progress can be made amongst the 1 in 3 adults in England that cannot swim

Swimmers are also more likely to be socially connected and have more friends.

And, as the report also states, Suzie is adamant that being in open water does make her feel happier.

“I would definitely back that up,” she said. “I went for a first, refreshing open water swim on New Year’s Day 2016 with a few friends. It was fun – and we laughed.

“The cold was soon forgotten and replaced with good memories. The seed was sown and I soon realised the serenity and submersion in nature has the power to clear my head even more than a swim in the pool.

“Open water is a different beast to the pool – it’s the ultimate.

“You are completely immersed in it. You are cradled by the water while being surrounded by the sky, trees and wildlife.

“It’s more exhilarating than being in the pool and my message to anyone would be give it a go – the chances are you will enjoy it.”