Chris Cole was terrified of water when he came for his first swimming lesson at Shirley Pool. Nine years later he was in a team that swam the English Channel. Now Swim England, the National Governing Body of Swimming, have recognised his achievements at a glamorous presentation event.
The award came at the Annual Swimming Awards Ceremony in Birmingham, where Chris was awarded the Silver trophy for Adult Achievement.
Chris Cole (49) decided to start lessons at the Shirley Swimming Pool after all his children had become strong swimmers at the pool,
“ I knew the pool had a good reputation and yet the thought of swimming filled me with anxiety and embarrassment” said the GP from Marchwood.
Not only did Chris learn to swim, he became hooked on open water swimming and progressed so well that he was able to join the Shirley Pool team that swam the English Channel in August 2019.
” To anyone out there feeling nervous I would urge them to give it a try. I’m no athlete – if I can do it, anyone can.”
In August 2020 Chris has a slot booked to attempt a solo crossing of the Channel.
Chris Cole was chosen because he set such a good example to other non swimming adults.
In a recent report published by Swim England it was revealed that as many as one in three adults in the UK cannot swim 25m (14 million).
The report goes on to show the overwhelming evidence of regular exercise in water, not just swimming.
“With 70 per cent of the NHS budget being spent on chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, regular physical activity like swimming can reduce occurrence of these conditions by 20-40 per cent. One million people in the UK will have dementia by 2025, and this will increase to two million by 2050, costing £26 billion a year in the UK.
Participants in Swim England’s Dementia Friendly Swimming project identified improvements in their wellbeing, including pain reduction, balance, functional capability and fitness as well as improvements in their mental health, mood, confidence, ability to concentrate and reduced anxiety.”
Walking lanes have become a popular activity at the Shirley Pool with a dedicated lane every morning and evening. Combined with the daytime Aquasize session (Tuesdays 11am), there are more sessions than ever for those who want to take the weight off their feet.
Swim England: “Due to the unique properties of water, swimming can help people with long-term health conditions to be more active. The buoyancy supports those with balance problems and helps to reduce the risk and fear of falling. “Water-based activity also places less stress on the joints and makes exercise more comfortable and practical than on dry land. This benefits people with musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis. Musculoskeletal conditions affected an estimated 18.8 million people across the UK in 2017 and accounted for more than 22 per cent of the total burden of ill health (morbidity) in the UK.12
The Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines highlighted the importance of daily, moderate-to vigorous intensity activity, including strengthening activities, with additional requirements for balance and flexibility activities for older adults.
The Health Commission’s Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming report also recognised the important role that water plays in providing an environment where these strengthening, flexibility and balance exercises can be undertaken”
The report goes on to say “Swim England research reveals that 1.4 million adults in Britain felt that swimming had significantly reduced their symptoms of anxiety or depression. Swimming is also associated with improved sleep and improved quality of life in people with long-term conditions”
The YouGov poll, commissioned by Swim England, reveals that as a direct result of swimming: 492,000 British adults with mental health conditions have reduced the number of visits to medical professionals regarding their mental health and have reduced or no longer take medication for their mental health.”
As a form of physical exercise, swimming is hard to beat. However, in addition to all the obvious physical health benefits, there’s something mentally therapeutic about being near or in water that’s much harder to put your finger on. If you’re a regular swimmer, you’ve no doubt experienced it yourself.
Once you overcome the barriers that stop two thirds of the country ever getting wet, the feeling can become addictive. According to writer Mike James the benefits are enormous,
“Regular swimming, even just half an hour at a time, is known to be effective for lowering incidences of depression and anxiety and improve sleep patterns.
Swimming releases endorphins, the natural feelgood hormones that lead us to experience a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.
Swimming is a fun and effective way to relieve stress, possibly more so than other type of physical exercise. Being in contact with water, by itself, can help to loosen up both body and mind.
Better still, being immersed in water while swimming, playing close attention to your technique as you practise the regular rhythm of your swimming strokes can have a very relaxing, almost meditative effect on the mind.
What’s more, scientific studies in rats have shown that swimming can help generate new brain cells in those parts of the brain where chronic stress has led to cell deterioration – it’s a process called hippocampal neurogenesis.
While the research has not progressed far enough to be able to make any firm predictions for humans, it is just possible that swimming might enhance our ability to process stress more easily.
While 1 in 6 people in the UK suffer from depression, physical activity such as swimming can lead to a 30% improvement in self-worth, increasing general satisfaction in life. In research carried out with the participation of 4,000 swimmers across the world, three 75% agreed that water based activities helped release tension, while 68% of people felt being in the water made them feel happier in themselves.”
“For adults living with conditions such as dementia, swimming is a great way to improve memory, focus and concentration. A recent study showed that being immersed in water boosts the blood flow to the brain. This increases the supply of oxygen, glucose and nutrients which would suggest a positive impact on brain health.
Blue is abundant throughout the natural world – it’s associated with water, the colour of the vast ocean and the endless sky. The human body is made of about 70% water – no wonder, then, that many people feel drawn towards water and that being near the sea has a soothing influence on the mind”