Swim England

A nation swimming

Swim England signs letter to political leaders backing #TakeTheLead campaign

Swim England is one of more than 200 bodies, athletes, businesses and charities which has signed an open letter to political leaders calling on them to use the General Election to #TakeTheLead and commit to making the UK the most active nation in Europe. 

The campaign has been launched as three-quarters of British adults ranked the country as being in the top 10 of Europe’s league table for physical activity – when it is in fact joint 11th among 15 comparable nations.

The call for change is driven by the Active Partnerships network, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Sport for Development Coalition, ukactive and the Youth Sport Trust.

Together, they represent thousands of organisations, gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres, sports governing bodies and professionals across the country. 

The #TakeTheLead campaign showcases the importance of creating a more active nation and, crucially, highlights the need for leadership by national politicians to create the conditions for change. 

The letter outlines the urgent need as well as the “unique opportunity” for any new Government to unlock the full potential of the sport, recreation and physical activity sector, in a move that would be “transformative for communities across the UK”. 

It says: “To overcome our national health crisis and deliver economic growth, we believe you must commit to the ambition of making the UK the most active nation in Europe and work with the industry to deliver this vision.” 

The letter also highlights priorities for the party leaders to focus on to reduce growing inequalities across the UK and drive significant change in activity levels, such as ensuring every child is active for at least 60 minutes every day, cutting red tape holding back growth and embedding physical activity pathways into health and care systems. 

Andy Salmon, Swim England chief executive, said aquatics was the perfect sport to help get more people active.

He said: “We’re fully supportive of the #TakeTheLead initiative due to the huge mental and physical health benefits exercising in water can bring.

“It’s the perfect activity for all ages and the unique properties of the water means it can help people manage a number of long-term health conditions.

“Swimming regularly can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression and improve your sleep patterns.

Be much bolder

“It helps save the NHS and social care system hundreds of millions of pounds every year so it’s crucial that the next government realises this and ensures that there is the budget available to provide enough facilities across the country for everyone.” 

Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington is one of the 226 signatories of the letter.

She said: “It’s time for our political leaders to take the lead and be much bolder in their ambitions for sport and physical activity in the UK. 

“It’s going to be a great summer for sport but it’s about more than inspiring the next generation of athletes, it’s about how physical activity can help fix our health crisis and improve so many lives. 

“I want us to be top of podium as the most active nation in Europe and that starts with the next Government having a full plan to help us reach millions more people of all ages and backgrounds.” 

Collectively, the sector already saves the NHS £9.5bn every year by preventing illness and in total generates £85bn annually in economic and social value. 

However, the value generated by the sector could be far greater if the UK reaches and exceeds the activity levels of its European peers, according to research by the Sport and Recreation Alliance. 

If the UK became the most active nation in Europe, the research projects: 

  • Economic growth – by increasing GDP by £3.6bn every year 
  • Reduced burden on the NHS – by cutting spending on preventable disease by £1bn every year 
  • An improvement in people’s life satisfaction – by increasing wellbeing benefits to the value of £71bn every year.

Lisa Wainwright MBE, CEO Sport and Recreation Alliance, said: “By asking our political leaders to commit to making the UK the most active nation in Europe, we aren’t just asking them to commit to the power of physical activity, we are imploring them to reimagine the role of sport and recreation in society and, crucially, to put it at the heart of their policy making. 

“Already in this election, we are seeing parties focus on the need to grow the economy, fix the NHS, cut crime, tackle climate change and reduce inequalities. 

“We know that sport and recreation does all this and more. Getting more people, more active consistently leads to better social and economic outcomes.”