Physio and academic Fiona Moffatt extols the benefits of swimming during and after cancer treatment
Physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals should encourage people who have received a cancer diagnosis to consider swimming, according to Fiona Moffatt, associate professor and director of postgraduate research at the University of Nottingham.
Dr Moffatt, who graduated in physiotherapy at the University of Manchester in 1991, is a member of Swim England’s Swimming and Health Commission. Staff from the University of Nottingham and Swim England developed a factsheet titled ‘Swimming during and after cancer’ that was launched last week (3 October).
The latest in a series of factsheets focuses on the benefits of aquatic activity for people health issues. Others in the series have covered topics including asthma, dementia and diabetes – and all of them were produced in partnership with people with experience of the conditions concerned.
Factsheets covering topics such as stroke and musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis, are currently in the pipeline. More than 13,000 factsheets have been downloaded and more than 172,000 views by members of the public have been logged on Swim England’s website.
Mission to 'change lives'
Dr Moffatt said she hoped that the latest factsheet would be used by healthcare professionals, leisure providers, social prescribers and members of the public to support those living with cancer to get into the water.
‘Our mission at the University of Nottingham school of health sciences is to change lives together. We are committed to improving the health, healthcare and wellbeing of individuals and their families,’ Dr Moffatt added. ‘As such, we really value the opportunity to work collaboratively with Swim England and people with cancer to produce this guidance.’
Andrew Power, Swim England’s water wellbeing specialist, said: ‘Perhaps it used to be the case that resting during and after cancer treatment was thought best. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that by remaining as active as possible, people living with and after cancer can manage a range of symptoms and improve both physical and mental health.’
Our mission at the University of Nottingham school of health sciences is to change lives together. We are committed to improving the health, healthcare and wellbeing of individuals and their families [Fiona Moffatt]
Mental health benefits
Dominic O’Connor, an assistant professor in physiotherapy and sport rehabilitation at University of Nottingham who was involved in developing the factsheet, said: ‘Swimming not only provides physical benefits such as improved fitness and strength, but can help improve mental health.
‘This is particularly important as stress and anxiety are common during and after treatment, and the evidence suggests that regular exercise such as swimming may help manage this plus other symptoms such as pain and fatigue,’ he added.
What the factsheet says
'Some treatments for cancer can cause symptoms such as fatigue, muscle loss or joint pain. When we exercise in water we use both upper and lower body muscles – this is a great way of improving body composition, muscle strength and fitness.
'For those with joint pain, the buoyancy effect of water can reduce discomfort during exercise. Water based exercise can also help reduce any swelling from surgery or other treatments.'
For more information, healthcare professionals, swimming teachers and coaches – along others involved in supporting or encouraging people to swim – should visit Swim England's Health & Wellbeing Hub. Thirteen factsheets are currently available to download. Visit: https://www.swimming.org/swimengland/health-and-wellbeing/
Factsheets written for members of the public can be downloaded from the Just Swim website. Visit: https://www.swimming.org/justswim/get-healthier/swimming-with-health-conditions/
One in person in two in the UK will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime, with 375,000 new cancer cases being confirmed every year. (Source: Sport England)Author: Ian A McMillan