Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming report
Swim England’s ‘Swimming and Health Commission’ is the first time that the relationship between swimming and
health and wellbeing has been scientifically investigated in this depth. Swim England is the national governing body
for the sport in England and they commissioned this work to provide a baseline of knowledge from which to build
future evidence and share best practice.
An independent team of United Kingdom (UK) researchers have reviewed and scrutinsed the available evidence for
the Commission on the benefits of swimming for: individuals, patients, communities and nations. Their scope was
to scientifically review the health and wellbeing benefits across the lifespan, to highlight disparities in evidence,
practice and access, and to evidence the many health advantages that swimming regularly affords to us all.
It is clear from the evidence that being able to swim, swimming regularly, and swimming as a part of daily community
life can have considerable health and wellbeing benefits. For instance, research has identified that any amount of
swimming participation compared to those who engaged in none, was associated with a 28% and 41% reduction
in all cause and cardiovascular disease cause mortality respectively. The striking evidence of where swimming has
afforded significantly improved health, quality of life and a sense of community are additional examples of best
practice that need to be promoted across the nation.
And it is evident that water-based exercise can confer several specific advantages, as compared to land-based
exercise. For this reason, water-based exercise prescription should be a key consideration for all health care
clinicians, providers and commissioners.
It is also emphasised that having adequate opportunities to learn to swim and have positive experiences in early life,
particularly among those from disadvantaged backgrounds, may be an important step to tackle drowning as one of
the causes of avoidable and tragic death.
It is estimated that those who swim for recreational or competitive purposes are eight times more likely to meet
physical activity guidelines. Long-term swim training can also improve cardiorespiratory fitness or endurance in
healthy pre-pubertal girls and adults, women during pregnancy, children with asthma, and adults with osteoarthritis
(a condition affecting joints, causing pain and stiffness).
It is however concerning to find in many areas a profound lack of robust scientific evidence in swimming as a
contemporary means to: increase physical activity levels, move the inactive into swimming as a preferred physical
activity, and to use a variety of community swimming venues to promote health and wellbeing at population levels.
This report is just the start of a focus on swimming being a greater part of the national and international picture to
increase health and wellbeing through physical activity, leisure and water based sports
This full scientific report of the commission is divided into seven chapters. Each chapter contains a review of the
evidence for the health benefits of swimming together with key points and summary statements. Chapter one
focuses on the individual health benefits of swimming and other water based activities. Swimming and mental health
and wellbeing is covered in chapter two. The physiology of swimming and health benefits is detailed in chapter
three. Chapter four explores the evidence for swimming benefits for communities within a framework of delivering
community capacity. Chapter five details the public health benefits of swimming and the importance of fulfilling
key societal priorities such as reducing the number of deaths by drowning. Chapter six describes the benefits of
swimming as a sport and the final chapter seven looks at the economic case for swimming. A summary of this full
report is available as a separate document and highlights the key points from each chapter.