Sport England's measure of activity and the impact of sport, Active Lives (Nov16/17) has just been released. The report shows that a massive 27.7 million people (16+) in England are active but also a concerning 11.5 million people are inactive. The measure of "inactivity" is less than 30 minutes of moderate activity which raises the heart rate per week.
The Active Lives report also shows a breakdown of participation in sports and different activities. The good news is that swimming remains one of the most popular activities with 4.58million taking part at least twice a month. Swimming is behind only running, gym, fitness classes and cycling. However, the picture is not all positive - twice-a-month swimming numbers are in decline, having dropped by 283k since November 2016. This is the largest drop in participation in any sport on the survey.
Why the decline? Well, firstly it is important to state the positives - swimming is a fantastic sport with a significant, highly engaged and loyal audience. It is one of the most inclusive sports in existence, it is one of few female dominated sports, it has the highest latent demand of any sport and is a cradle-to-grave activity which is suitable for all ages.
However, swimming is not visible enough as a sport (in our daily lives or on social media). Unless you visit a pool or a lake, you will not see people swimming in your every day life (unlike seeing cyclists and runners everywhere on the streets). The lack of visibility means the activity is not in the minds of people who may be considering participating (contemplation stage of behavioural change). Swimming has less cool tech and there simply is not enough engaging and entertaining activities to do and be excited about within the sport. We need more opportunities to engage and more innovation.
We at Marathon Swims are trying to do something about it. We're on a mission and we're trying to switch the play and make swimming more visible, relevant and accessible. Marathon Swims will not be for everyone, but ultimately to turn the corner, the sport will need a mixed approach. We're bringing a new concept, new tech and innovation to a fantastic sport/activity.
Our first year event at the London Aquatics Centre, on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was sold out and Marathon Swims 2018 has expanded to two days due to demand. We hope (with support) to take the concept around the country. We have also been nominated for Participation Event of the Year at the prestigious BT Sport Industry Awards 2018 (only the second time in history that a swimming event has achieved a nomination).
So, let's change the mood-music around swimming. Let's show what an amazing sport this is and let's help build more innovation, creativity and tech into swimming - let's move the sport up to the Fast Lane!