Swim England

A nation swimming

'Pools are the only place I can exercise... my heart sank as lockdown was announced'

While pools are shut during the latest national lockdown, Swim England is leading the charge for them to be classed as essential services to help millions of people who rely on the water to get active.

In the second of three articles focusing on how aquatic activity can help ease a variety of debilitating conditions, Remy explains how the pool has played a vital role in boosting her physical and mental health.

For many, swimming pools are a place to train, a place to compete, a place to keep fit. But for Remy, they are a saviour.

The 55-year-old lives with an autoimmune disease that affects her nervous system, while she also suffered damage to her spine as a result of a car accident several years ago.

Her disabilities mean she lives with chronic pain, which has led to her suffering with depression and anxiety.

Swimming pools have proved to be a vital tool in helping her cope with her ailments.

“For me it is therapy”, she said. “As soon as they announced the lockdown again my heart sank.

“The pool is the only place that I can exercise. I discovered that while I was there for the hour, I wasn’t thinking about my anxiety – my mental health was better because of it.”

Remy recently discovered that her local pool in Berkshire was warm enough to replicate a hydrotherapy pool for her.

Finding a similar facility that is well heated was imperative as it allows Remy to not only build physical strength but also aids her mental wellbeing.

“Having found this warm pool, it was just fantastic”, she said. “I appreciated it so much. I just dreaded it being closed again. Everything is cleaned so well – the risk is mitigated.

“During the six weeks between lockdowns, I was there every weekday. I went from not being able to do a length with my kickboard to doing 52 lengths with my kickboard. My pain just felt so much better as soon as I was in the water.”

In addition, the daily routine that swimming created for her became essential.

People rely on pools

She said: “I had some sort of pattern. I had something in my day that was normal.

“The people at the pool know me, they’re really friendly. It was the only thing I had in my life during this pandemic that has benefitted me – it’s the only thing I was doing each day that was positive for me.”

Much research has proven that the health benefits of swimming, both physical and mental, are immeasurable.

The 2019 Value of Swimming report, commissioned by Swim England, revealed that 1.4 million adults in the UK feel that swimming significantly reduced their symptoms of anxiety and or depression.

Remy shares this sentiment, stressing that pools are much more than a recreational or training facility for many people – including herself – across the country.

“People rely on public pools to service their rehabilitation needs,” she said. “I’m having to use that because there’s no good resource to help me.

“The Government needs to look upon these facilities as a supplement for people’s medical treatment.”

Since she began swimming regularly, Remy has experienced these benefits first hand as she admits that she ‘never really noticed’ just how much exercise could improve her overall health.

She explains: “While I was in the water, I was definitely less focused on my problems and my pain. Swimming is helping my cardiovascular system massively.”

Plea to the Government

In fact, swimming has been continually prescribed to Remy by her doctors and physiotherapists over the last number of years.

“They have always said the pool is the best place for me”, she said.

Remy’s message to the Government is crystal clear.

“Please consider the therapeutic and medical benefits of having access to pools,” she urged. “Particularly the warmer ones in which people with medical problems experience respite from pain.

“It has the benefits of exercise which they may only be able to do weightlessly which is critical for their health.

“Being without this again has set me right back mentally as I am now more fatigued, weaker when upright, in bed more and don’t get a break from my pain so my depression is worse.”

Remy added that she has felt nothing but comfortable in her local pool since the beginning of the pandemic, stating that it feels ‘safer than [at her] local post office’.

“The pools are run very safely,” she said. “All customers pre-book so there are few people in the very large warm leisure pool I use. I’ve never seen more than seven people at a time.

“Having a facility to do weightless exercise strengthens me generally and improves my condition.”