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A leading doctor has said swimming pools need to be protected because of the ‘profound role’ they play in the health of the nation.
In a speech to MPs, leisure sector experts and healthcare professionals, Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi said water-based exercise can provide ‘more benefit than any pharmaceutical agent’.
He was speaking at a parliamentary reception held to mark the launch of Swim England’s Value of Swimming report and reiterated the national governing body’s plea for long-term funding to ensure everyone across the country had access to a pool.
Dr Al-Zubaidi, who is the clinical advisor for Swim England, highlighted the work of the Greek physician Hippocrates who, thousands of years ago, saw the health benefits being in the water can bring.
He said: “I do think it’s funny that in 400BC, Hippocrates wrote at quite great length the health benefits that swimming and access to the water brought in a number of the remedies he was applying to his patients.
“Despite many years of further evidence and support, we now live in an environment where we are losing our pools, we are losing access to clean, healthy open water.
“That’s despite evidence that, in fact, it provides more benefit than any pharmaceutical agent we have got.
“I have seen the impact it has on patients. In my local area, we set up a swim group, collaborating with my local leisure centre and we allow patients with long-term health conditions to access the water and we support them through that process.
“In the time since it started in April, we have countless examples on the significant impact it has had.
“Not just on the markedness quality of life or mental health, which of course are so important, but on some of the physical parameters, whether that be weight, whether that be diabetes scores, whether that be cholesterol.
“These are things that, before, I would have said were not possible in the time frame that we were talking about and were simply achieved by supporting people to get into the water.”
Dr Al-Zubaidi said greater partnerships between the health and leisure sectors was required – while trainee doctors should receive additional education on the impact physical activity can have on people’s health when they are at medical school.
He added: “I think in order for us to make best use of the pools, we need a really strong collaboration between health care and the fitness sector because until we connect these two groups, that division will mean patients get lost and those that don’t have the same ability to access these resources will lose out.
“I do feel that if we are going to be able to support health, having access to pools, access to open water that is clean and safe, will have such a profound effect.
“In medical school, you’re there for six years. You have four hours of teaching on all physical activity.
In swimming, I got zero minutes in medical school. That’s not right. That’s not a fair balance.
“Many of us are living lifestyles which eventually will lead to long-term health conditions that we will find very hard to reverse.
“Everyone wants to be able to prevent those things, rather than scramble for a cure once they arise.
“If we go back to basics of applying what good health care is and collaborating with the physical activity sector, we can use their expertise and our resource in knowing our patient and who would get most benefit in order to get good outcomes for patients.”
Swim England’s Value of Swimming report details the physical and mental health benefits of aquatic activity.
It has led to the national governing body launching its Don’t Put a Cap on Swimming campaign in a bid to ensure there is continued financial support for swimming pools in the long term.
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