Scottish swimmer dives in to boost mental health

South Ayrshire swimmer shows power of local lessons

A PASSIONATE advocate for mental wellness has discovered solace and strength in an unexpected place, his local swimming pool.

A recent poll by Scottish Swimming found that 70% of active swimmers get in the pool to help boost their mental health, including Paul Cowan, 42, who attends a GP referral swimming class, in South Ayrshire.

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He has seen great improvements since starting the weekly class at Citadel Leisure Centre, which is part of Sport and Leisure South Ayrshire. As his confidence has grown by taking part in swimming lessons, he now also attends general swimming as well as boosting his fitness in the gym.

Paul CowanPaul Cowan
Paul Cowan

Now, as part of Mental Health Awareness week, 13 to 19 May, Paul hopes his story gives others the confidence to swim for their health, both mental and physical.

Paul said: “Having something to look forward to every week, getting your bag ready and getting out the door makes such a difference.

“You can come in feeling negative and angry, but once you’re in the pool it washes away, you leave feeling so much happier.

"I come to the class every Wednesday, and always feel refreshed and ready to take on the day, I’m so grateful to be able to swim every week, I’d encourage everyone who can to get in the pool!”

While 86% of the Scottish population agree that swimming is important for health, recent statistics revealed that 14 million of the UK adult population can't swim, highlighting the urgent need for awareness and accessibility to swimming lessons.

Recently, the team behind the National Learn to Swim Framework has been encouraging older generations to embrace swimming, recognising its profound impact on mental health, through its ‘Never Too Late’ campaign.

Citadel Leisure Centre, is one of 160 pools delivering the Learn to Swim Framework – a partnership between Scottish Swimming and Scottish Water – with the goal of creating safe and competent swimmers all across Scotland.

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Euan Lowe, CEO at Scottish Swimming, said: “Scottish Swimming’s vision is ‘everyone can swim’ and learning to swim is an activity for all regardless of your age.

“Paul's story exemplifies the transformative power of swimming. It's not just about fitness; it's about mental wellness and resilience.

“Being able to swim is vital, not just as a life skill, but brings a host of health benefits such as improved cardiovascular fitness, weight management, reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes and enhanced mental wellbeing which are all things which can be harder to manage as we get older.

"Swimming is an invaluable skill and we’re determined to make learning to swim accessible to everyone in Scotland, no matter their age or ability.”

The Learn to Swim Framework aims to develop safe, confident and competent swimmers, as well as encouraging people of all ages and abilities to adopt a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle with sport and fun at its heart to reach their full potential both in the pool and beyond.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, echoes this sentiment: “Learning to swim is such an important safety skill – everyone should be able to enjoy Scotland’s miles of rivers, lochs, reservoirs and shorelines, and do so safely.

“Paul is a great example of the wider health, fitness and social benefits that swimming can offer, and we hope his story helps to inspire and encourage more people to take part in local Learn to Swim programme lessons.”

The National Framework is delivered by 38 leisure trusts and aquatic providers in more than 160 pools across Scotland.

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For more information on the Learn to Swim programme, visit:

For more information on Sport and Leisure South Ayrshire and its adult swim lessons, visit:

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