"I used to feel trapped and depressed about my conditions – but going swimming with others with the same problems has made me feel good about myself."
Robert, who lives with Bi-Polar and Korsakoffs, is one of the many people experiencing the positive impact of swimming.
His story is featured as part of a new report from Swim England into the health and wellbeing benefits of swimming.
"Swimming was a new outlet from my illnesses," adds Robert. "My self-worth has improved and my confidence has improved.
"It's just a simple swim – but it has changed my life."
The report shows that the unique benefits of water make it the perfect place for people of all ages to exercise, particularly those with long-term health conditions.
The report also found evidence that swimmers live longer, and regular swimming helps older people stay mentally and physically fit.
Importantly, it also showed that taking part in swimming lessons can help children to develop physical, cognitive and social skills quicker than those who do not have lessons.
Swim England commissioned the report and will use the findings to raise awareness within the health profession about the safety and cost-effectiveness of swimming for patients.
The national governing body is also calling on the wider health and sport sector to come together and invest in further research on the impact of physical activity on mental health and long-term conditions.
The report also found evidence that swimmers live longer and regular swimming helps older people stay mentally and physically fit
Jane Nickerson, Swim England CEO, said: “It is evident from the report that swimming has enormous potential to support the health and wellbeing of the nation. The unique properties of water means that unlike other activities, no one is restricted from taking part.
“The report particularly highlights the benefits of swimming and aquatic activities for people with mental health concerns or problems with their joints and muscles. This supports findings from our Dementia Friendly Swimming project, but is an area where further research across the health and sports sector is required."
The timing of this report comes as we start to roll out our Swim Local pilots across the country.
We know swimming is one of the ways many people prefer to get active – but participation levels have declined over the last few years.
The Swim Local pilots have been developed with the local community and needs of the individual in mind. They will test the different ways and approaches to getting more people in the pool.
I used to feel trapped and depressed about my conditions – but going swimming with others has made me feel good about myself
Robert, aged 54 from Manchester
Mike Farrar, Swim England Group Board Chairman and former CEO of the NHS Confederation, said: “To fully understand the links between physical activity and health in the general population, we would need to see more national resources invested into research.
"This report shows that activities like swimming really do have the potential to be a game-changer in supporting the health of this nation, especially at a time when cuts to services means less money for long-term care.”
The Swim England report was developed by the Swimming and Health Commission under the Chairmanship of Professor, Ian Cumming.
Ian, the Health Education England chief executive, added: “Swim England is the first sport governing body to support such an in-depth investigation of its relationship with health and wellbeing.
"I would like to applaud them for their foresight and for producing a piece of work that I am sure will become a reference document for many years to come.”