Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring took the plunge launching the “Swim Healthy” Initiative which is aimed at promoting recreational swimming countrywide.
The initiative comes on the back of a comprehensive piece of research ‘Swimming in Ireland: A Statistical Analysis’ conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) on behalf of The Irish Sports Council and Swim Ireland.
The research revealed that swimming has become the most popular form of sport and exercise for Irish adults with over 230,000 people (almost 7% of Irish adults) swimming every week.
“As Minister for Sport, I believe it is extremely important that people are encouraged and given opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity. Swimming is one of the best forms of physical exercise for developing and maintaining high levels of physical fitness can play a key role in combatting heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis. It is something most people can participate in from a very early age and right throughout their lives. Swimming is a most basic, natural and efficient way of taking exercise,” Minister Ring said.
Among the key findings of the research were:-
- Swimming has become the most popular form of sport and exercise for Irish adults.
- Women tend to swim more often than men and swim for health reasons rather than competition.
- The West of Ireland and the border counties enjoy the highest level of participation.
- Swimming can play a key role in combating heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Among the key elements in the Swim Healthy initiative are:-
- An upgraded Swim Ireland website (www.swimireland.ie) which is now the “go to” place to find out about swimming in Ireland. The website includes a database of all pools in Ireland and also provides information on courses, instructors and clubs.
- A quality programme to accredit and licence Swim Ireland teachers and coaches to the highest standard.
- A roll-out of the Swim Ireland “Learn to Swim” programme.
- Promotion of the country’s swimming clubs as the place to go for those interested in becoming more competent and/or being more competitive.
- Utilising the services of other sportsmen and women who see the value of swimming as a wonderful way of keeping fit. Rugby’s Shane Horgan is a recent covert to recreational swimming.
According to Swim Ireland Chief Executive, Sarah Keane, swimming is the only exercise that can be practised ‘from cradle to grave’ and is an excellent form of exercise for a healthy lifestyle.
“For swimming to realise its potential we need many different elements to come together. We see our role as being a catalyst for swimming, as working with all of the parties involved to make it as easy as possible for people of all ages to become involved. That includes working with the owners of facilities, with instructors, with coaches and with those providing swimming courses. Ultimately we would love to see all teachers delivering the Swim Ireland ‘Learn to Swim’ programme which we have devised with expert input to ensure it delivers the best instruction by the best instructors in a safe and supervised environment.”
Welcoming the initiative John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council, commended Swim Ireland for their participation with the Irish Sports Council (ISC) in the research which he said had pointed the way to the initiative being announced. He added that the research had been the first sports specific research ever undertaken by the ISC.
“The research indicated that there has been a strong growth in swimming in recent years. Instead of resting on that success Swim Ireland has sought to build on it by making it easier for people to access information in relation to pools and classes and also in providing better swimming instruction. They are to be complimented on their initiative which can only be good for the health of the country,” said Mr Tracey
Speaking of the research co-author Dr Pete Lunn of the ESRI said: “The pattern of results we found suggests that swimming makes an important contribution to public health. Swimming can be undertaken by a broad range of people of different abilities and fitness levels, so the promotion of swimming can play a key role in policy to increase physical activity. The findings also reveal that the increased involvement of women in sport has knock-on effects for the next generation. People whose mothers were active in sport and exercise when they were children are much more likely to become regular swimmers. “