NHS England launch a new eLearning programme on aquatic activity and swimming for health

The healthcare benefits of swimming and aquatic activity for people with long-term health conditions is the focus of an eLearning resource launched by NHS England, in partnership with Swim England.

Research conducted by Swim England has highlighted how healthcare professionals intuitively believe aquatic activity provides unique health benefits but they lack specific knowledge to make this part of routine conversations with patients.

To plug the knowledge gap, a 20-minute eLearning session raises awareness of the benefits of aquatic activity on health and wellbeing with the hope of enhancing learners’ confidence in identifying who would benefit most.

The resource, also developed in partnership with the Aquatic Therapy Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (ATACP) and University of Nottingham, is aimed at healthcare professionals of all types who may have an influence on an individual’s decision to be active, including social prescribing link workers and leisure professionals. General access is available for this which means anyone in the UK should be able to access it after registering.

Andrew Power, Swim England water wellbeing specialist, said: “The benefits of swimming and aquatic activity are numerous and being active in water is often recommended for people with a range of long term health conditions or impairments for a number of reasons.

“However, despite the clear benefits to individuals and communities, water based activity is an option that can still be overlooked and so it is hoped this eLearning programme will further raise awareness of the importance of activities like swimming, exercise in water and services such as aquatic physiotherapy.”

The introduction of the resource follows the launch of the national governing body’s Swimming as Medicine series earlier this year, which encourages healthcare professionals to consider recommending swimming and aquatic activity to their patients as an effective way of improving health and wellbeing.

Healthcare professionals can be a crucial link in highlighting the opportunities and services that exist in the community to help overcome barriers to physical activity participation – and therefore improved health and wellbeing.

Sarah Cox, education committee member and foundation programme tutor from the ATACP, commented: “An accessible eLearning on a national platform has been an ambition for the past five years.

“As the national group of aquatic physiotherapists, our plan is to improve understanding of the unique properties and specific changes that happen to a person when entering the water, therefore assisting with confidence in signposting of where and how to safely enjoy these benefits.

“There are patients who enjoy and rehabilitate extremely effectively in hydrotherapy pools and we want these patients to become participants in aquatic activity for their own health and wellbeing. This is a small but important step in sharing knowledge and linking different providers together for the benefit of people with a long term health condition.”

Fiona Moffatt, associate professor from the University of Nottingham, School of Health Sciences, added: “Long-term conditions affect around one in four people in the UK. They impact wellbeing and take up a considerable proportion of healthcare expenditure.

“Significantly, large inequalities in the burden of disease are concentrated in conditions such as chronic pain, diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

“The School of Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham is committed to supporting practical, accessible, and equitable approaches to preventing and managing these long-term conditions.

“Raising awareness of the benefits of aquatic exercise is critical to this endeavour. This new resource will help health professionals feel confident, competent and capable to support people into aquatic activities.”

The national governing body are keen to see the eLearning being accessed widely by healthcare and leisure professionals alike. Click here to access with an existing learning hub account or to register.

To find out more about Swim England’s wider work around health and wellbeing, visit the Swim England health and wellbeing hub.