Swim England

A nation swimming

‘Don’t Put a Cap on Swimming’ as it generates social value of £2.4billion a year

Swimming is generating social value of £2.4billion a year, according to newly-released research.

The social value is revealed in Swim England’s latest Value of Swimming report, which outlines how water-based activity continues to make a significant contribution to the physical and mental wellbeing of the nation.

To coincide with the launch of the report, Swim England is launching its ‘Don’t Put a Cap on Swimming’ campaign, calling on the Government to ensure the country has a network of sustainable pools to support all the activities and sports that rely on them, as well as increasing access to outdoor swimming opportunities.

Financial pressures on local councils, increased costs and ageing pools mean many facilities face an uncertain future.

More than 1,000 publicly accessible pools have closed since 2010 – while, around 1,500 are in excess of 40 years old and coming towards the end of their ‘shelf life’.

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson MBE said: “Swimming pool owners and operators are ambitious and keen to do more to maximise the benefits of public sport and leisure services for their communities and deliver the ambitions set out in the Government’s ‘Get Active’ sport and physical activity strategy.

“This includes contributing towards wider societal objectives such as reducing the burden on the NHS and social care system, lowering levels of obesity, tackling inequalities and cutting carbon emissions. This transformation will only happen if there is leadership and investment from the Government, councils, health and leisure partners.

“With the right leadership, partnerships, coordination and investment, our nation’s pools can deliver significantly more social, economic and environmental benefits for the whole of society, supporting the long-term health and success of the nation.

“Of course, that requires investment in building the greener pools of the future and decarbonising existing pools, but it is about more than that.

“There needs to be a shared vision across all levels of government as to the purpose of our swimming pools and leisure centres which is reflected in pool contracts, one which recognises their immense value to communities and widens access to the water and puts them on a sustainable footing.”

Former world champion Mark Foster added: “Swimming has enriched my life and I know it continues to do the same for thousands of people across the country.

“Swimming is fun for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds and, as Swim England’s Value of Swimming report underlines, being in water can bring so many health and wellbeing benefits.

“It’s vital that anyone who wants to swim and wants to feel the benefits of swimming on a regular basis has access to a local pool.”

Fantastic activity

The Value of Swimming report reveals that regular swimming is associated with a range of health benefits, with 78,500 cases of ill health prevented in 2022 alone.

The largest health savings are made up from dementia (£105,202,672) and diabetes (£94,920,452).

Other key savings are made in strokes (£29,247,180), hip fractures (£28,596,541), breast cancer (£10,557,363), colon cancer (£4,566,962), and depression (£3,375,224).

The report also reveals how £35,859,685 is saved as a result of reduced GP and psychotherapy visits by those who swim regularly.

Other key highlights published in the report include:

  • Of the total social value of £2.4billion, £1.6billion was generated by public leisure facilities
  • Club swimmers report feeling 12% less anxious than the general population
  • Club swimmers are 78% more active than the general population and are more likely to feel that life is worthwhile.
  • Around 500,000 people aged over 75 go swimming in England each year
  • More than 3.5 million people swim in open water in England each year
  • A total of 92% of children in England say they either ‘like’ or ‘love’ swimming
  • Around 4.5million children in England would like to swim more often

Double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington OBE said: “Swimming is such a fantastic activity for people of all ages.

“Whether it is children learning a vital skill, families having fun together, people using the water for their physical and mental health or older people and those with conditions that mean they may struggle to be active on land.

“That’s why it’s so important we have the pools we need for the future to support all these activities.”