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Expert panel to explore the health benefits of swimming

A new group has been set up to investigate the links between swimming and health, and demonstrate just how good swimming is for you.

The Health Commission for Swimming is an independent group made up of experts from across the health and physical activity sectors.

Set up as a response to Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation, the group will explore current research around health and swimming, and provide evidence on how swimming positively impacts on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Ian Cumming, Health Education England Chief Executive and Level 3 swimming coach, will chair the Commission group. He said: “Over the last six months there has been a distinct shift in the national debate about the value of physical activity and the contribution it can make to the health of the nation.

“Swimming is unique; anyone can do it regardless of age, ability or health condition. It is the only physical activity that can be done from birth right through to older age, and with over 16 million people swimming at least once a month, it is well-placed to respond to many of the country’s key health and social concerns.

“We already know that just 30 minutes of swimming each week can significantly benefit general levels of health and wellbeing. This new Commission group will seek to identify and conclusively demonstrate how swimming can help combat a range of health conditions within the population.”

Mike Farrar, Chairman of the ASA Group Board, said: “The ASA has always advocated the social, physical and mental benefits of swimming. It’s an activity that is truly accessible to everyone which means it helps to tackle social and health challenges across all age groups, from childhood obesity and inactivity, to adults experiencing mental ill-health, social isolation or illness.

“The Government’s new sport strategy inspired us to fully explain swimming’s ability to take up the challenges they have identified. The Health Commission for Swimming is an exciting opportunity for these to be examined by a range of industry experts, and to demonstrate the positive impact swimming has on the nation.

“Almost half of the population say they go swimming. If we can encourage them to swim more regularly by conclusively demonstrating how much they will gain from swimming – whether through fun, health or fitness – then we will be well on our way to achieving our mission of a healthier and happier nation through swimming.”

The Commission group, which has been brought together by the ASA, will meet throughout the year to identify effective methods of research that demonstrate the positive impact of swimming. It will also determine essential models and practices, and provide guidance for the wider aquatics and health industry.

Members of the group include Dr Justin Varney from Public Health England, Professor Ric Fordham from the University of East Anglia, Sandra Dodd CEO of PFP Leisure and Karen Creavin from Birmingham City Council. Adam Paker, Dave Fletcher and ASA independent Group Board member Simon Johnston, will also be part of the group.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, added: “Swimming is an exercise that both strengthens your muscles and raises your heart rate, and is a great way to look after your weight and heart. What is good for your heart is also good for your head. We look forward to hearing what further can be done to bring the benefits of swimming to as many people as possible.”

The launch follows the recent approval by the NHS Research Ethics Committee for further research to be conducted into the links between swimming and quality of life for people living with dementia. This comes after successful pilots of the ASA’s Dementia Friendly Swimming Project which is currently being delivered in eight areas of the country.