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Swim England ‘delighted’ to help new project on benefits of outdoor swimming

Swim England is ‘delighted’ to work with the University of Nottingham on a new project which hopes to encourage more people to reap the health benefits of open water swimming.

The ‘Wild Swimming and Blue Spaces’ project, has been launched by a group of researchers at the Nottingham-based university.

It aims to pull together a comprehensive overview and toolkit on the mental and physical health benefits of swimming outdoors.

Guidance will also be provided which will cover the risks related to water quality and safety of specific swimming spots in the UK.

Open water swimming has had a surge in popularity in the UK over recent years and the benefits to physical and mental health have been well-documented.

Further develop understanding

However, information about, and access to, natural ‘blue spaces’ such as rivers, lakes, or the sea, tend to be local and disparate and not on the radar of wider communities, in both cities and rural areas.

The research team at Nottingham consists of linguistics and placed-based literature experts, with health policy and freshwater ecosystem specialists.

They will work with a list of partners including the national governing body for aquatics, with other organisations including the Black Swimming Association and Cardiff University.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “Swim England are delighted to be partnering in this project which aligns with a number of our core strategic goals, enabling access to swimming for a diverse range of participants and to increase the visibility of aquatic sports.

“This research will further develop our own understanding of the barriers to access and explore how health inequalities can be addressed through open water swimming, including how we might develop content that truly appeals and in turn creates a happier, healthier and more successful nation through swimming.”

Physical, social, emotional and cultural gains

As part of the project, a new online survey will be launched alongside the development of textual, graphics and video content to show how swimmers can make informed decisions about the safety of water conditions and possible toxicity or contamination of open water locations.

The results of the research will inform new policy briefs to help with commissioning and promotion of open water swimming at a local and national level.

Leading the Wild Swimming and Blue Spaces project, Professor of English Language and Linguistics, Svenja Adolphs, said: “Wild swimming and blue space recreation offer the potential for significant physical, social, emotional and cultural gains.

“This project will use a creative, multidisciplinary approach to develop authentic public messaging that ensures these benefits can be realised equitably and at scale, thus leveraging the use of blue spaces as community assets to combat health inequalities.

“We are building on the large number of successful local initiatives that are working to address barriers to wild swimming for their communities, and we will surface, study and share evidence that can be used by promoters and commissioners of wild swimming as a possible health and wellbeing intervention.”

For more information on the project, visit the ‘Wild Swimming and Blue Spaces’ website.