Swim England

A nation swimming

Prioritise reopening of facilities so people can swap pills for pools to manage pain

Swim England has called on the Government to deliver on its promise to prioritise the reopening of leisure facilities – so people can swap pills for pools to help manage a range of debilitating health conditions.

People who normally use aquatic activity to help manage long-term problems have been forced to turn to medication as pools across the country remain shut as part of the measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

It has led to health experts warning that continued closures are ‘building up health problems for the future’.

One swimmer, Claire, has told how pools help her to escape a ‘living hell of 24/7 pain’ – and she has been forced to use prescribed pain killers to help ease her chronic lower back pain and sciatica.

Swimming and aquatic activity helps save the NHS and social care system £357 million a year and Swim England has continually called for pools to be classed as essential services to help ease pressure on GPs and hospitals which are already under increased strain due to the pandemic.

Last week, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said it was a priority for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to open facilities as soon as it is safe to do so as they were a ‘powerful defence’ against the coronavirus pandemic.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said it was vital that this happened in the first wave of lockdown restrictions being eased.

“Throughout lockdown, we have heard how so many people have been forced to live with a range of agonising conditions as they can’t access swimming pools,” said Jane.

“That’s why we’ve been banging the drum constantly and insisting they must reopen as soon as the Government starts to ease lockdown restrictions so people can swap pills for the pool to aid their recovery.

“Aquatic activity has been proven to help a range of conditions and while these essential facilities remain closed, millions of people who rely on the unique benefits being in the water can bring are unable to get active.

“That in itself is a huge cause for concern and we hope the Government stick to its promise to reopen pools as a priority – they can play a huge part in helping the nation to recover from this dreadful pandemic.”

Safe and effective environment

Jane also stressed how swimming and aquatic activity was a key factor in tackling mental health issues for people of all ages.

“Swimming and aquatic activity offers a safe and effective environment in which individuals can self-manage both their physical and mental health,” added Jane.

“Operators had been closely following our industry-leading guidance to ensure the risk of transmission is significantly reduced and the World Health Organisation has reiterated that coronavirus does not transmit through the water while swimming.

“It shows pools can be safely used to tackle the issue of inactivity and the strain it is putting on the mental health of all age groups.

“The lockdowns have seen 55 per cent of children and young people fail to meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more every day.

“We know how much our members and clubs from all our disciplines are missing the sports they love to take part in and we will keep up the fight to ensure all age groups are allowed to train together when pools reopen.

“It’s vitally important for the sake of the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing that the Government deliver on its intentions to allow facilities to reopen at the earliest available opportunity.”