I have been involved in swimming for years, having represented Great Britain at the World Para Swimming Championships and formerly held the British 400m freestyle record in the S9 category. I’ve always thought that one of the special things about swimming is that having a disability doesn’t have to hold you back. It’s one of the most accessible ways to be active, with everyone from complete beginners to record breaking Olympians like Duncan Scott able to go down to their local pool to do a few lengths.
People of all ages, shapes and sizes, and abilities can enjoy the benefits of getting active in the pool. Most towns have a swimming pool, you don’t need any fancy kit and, with limited impact and the ability to move through the water unaided, it’s a wonderful way for people with disabilities to protect their health and wellbeing. Many disabled swimmers have told me that as well as benefitting their physical health, swimming has worked wonders for their mental wellbeing by releasing feel good hormones and reducing stress.
Edinburgh Leisure boasts 18 swimming pools across the city, including our stunning Victorian swimming baths and our swimming pools within secondary schools. We offer a variety of pool-based activities to suit all abilities and recently we installed a new pool pod lift at the Royal Commonwealth Pool to make access for people with disabilities and limited mobility quicker, easier and more dignified.
Alison Malcolm, who became paralysed from the waist down aged 50, is a regular at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. She told us why she loves swimming and how she has benefitted from using the new pool pod.
“When I got back in the pool for the first time, my body confidence was low and I was concerned I wouldn’t float. It sounds daft but after five months in bed it took a long time for my body to reset. However, the staff were great about encouraging me to swim. I’ve never met a member of staff who didn’t want to help!
“Swimming is one of the most accessible ways for people with disabilities to incorporate physical activity into their lives. One of the things I like most about it is that once you’re in the water, you’re just the same as everyone else. It has been a great way for me to get active again and using the new pool pod to get in and out of the pool has made the whole experience more enjoyable.
“Now I tend to swim 24 lengths at the Commie three mornings a week. I enjoy the 50m lengths because I can get in the zone and give myself a cardio workout without putting too much strain on my body.”
If you have been inspired, whether it’s by Team GB in Tokyo or Alison in Edinburgh, find out more about getting active in the pool by going to www.edinburghleisure.co.uk/activities
Angela McCowan is the Aquatics Development Manager at Edinburgh Leisure