On Benefits? You’re Banned From Swimming!

More than three coins in a fountain!The U.S. state of Kansas is ready to prevent welfare recipients from going to swimming pools and the movies.  Whilst I agree there has to be some incentives to people getting back to work, there are a number of reasons why people find themselves on benefits and because of this, I don’t think there should be a blanket ban on activities that are deemed a luxury.  For example, if you have lost your job due to circumstances outside of your control, you should still have the opportunity to have some pleasure in life otherwise life could be pretty depressing without anything to look forward to.  However, if you are a long term benefit claimant and haven’t made any attempt to become financially independent, then restrictions should be made, as after all, the money should be utilised elsewhere.


I don’t think Kansas state have got it right on swimming though, in fact I think they have got it horribly wrong.  Swimming should be used as an incentive to be eligible for welfare.  Controversial I know, but swimming has so many life benefits that I firmly believe could help people on benefits whether it be long term or short term.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying Kansas should send everyone off to a waterpark to ride down flumes (even though just having fun in water is a proven way of getting non swimmers to eventually be swimmers), but people should participate in regular swimming sessions with the goal of moving onto lane swimming or aqua aerobics.

So what are the health benefits of swimming on a regular basis?  Swimming is the perfect all body workout.  It is widely regarded as the best form of exercise as anyone can take part, it works all parts of the body and it is non weight bearing due to buoyancy.  It doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you have a disability, swimming can be adapted to suit your ability.  Lots of people find being in water calming, so a regular swim programme could potentially help people who are depressed about being out of work and give them something to strive and focus for and hopefully, a more positive outlook on life.  The only downside to swimming is probably the limited amount of clothing that is usually required, but this can be overcome for the body conscious by wearing t-shirt and shorts (swimming teachers do!) until they feel more comfortable with their bodies.  We can also put safety benefits here too.  If claimants cannot swim, they could use the time to learn to swim, thus making them water safe, water confident and water aware and reducing the drowning statistics in the process.


Even though it would cost Kansas state to implement a swimming programme for it’s welfare claimants, the benefits would outweigh this hugely.  According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (www.kff.org), 71.2 % of Kansas males and 59.2 % of Kansas females are overweight or obese, a regular swim programme would help lower these statistics and in turn put less pressure on health services and increase quality of life.  A compulsory supervised (so the claimants can provide proof that they are attending the swim programme) programme of swimming or aqua aerobics three times a week would bring structure, purpose and the opportunity to form support networks, which should aid to getting back into the jobs market.

Lane Rage!

Slow Swimmer Frustration.Swimming is regarded as the best overall exercise for the body, but what can be defined as swimming or exercise?  I’ve recently started swimming seriously again at my local health club, to be honest, it was either that or endure a punishing gym programme three times a week and the swimming is far less painful!  Anyway, on one of my last sessions in the pool, three ladies got into the pool, not much older than myself, who proceeded to do the classic heads out of the water breaststroke whilst chatting.  Fair enough if you want to ‘swim’ like this, but please don’t interfere with people who want a proper workout.  The set I had chosen to do was fifteen metres (one length) butterfly followed by a lazy one length back front crawl, mainly because breast stroke was out due to a knee injury and there wasn’t enough room incase I went off course on back stroke and ended up hitting someone!  Now butterfly is not an easy stroke, but provides a good workout, it also turns out that the three chatting ladies had also taken umbrage to the butterfly and told me to stop.  I calmly pointed out that this was a swimming pool, to which they retorted that they were trying to swim and that the pool was not big enough for fly.  I didn’t say anymore, but did move over to give them more room.


This is a common problem for people who want to have a proper workout in the swimming pool.  These three ladies were swimming side by side and doing their best to keep their heads dry and in the long term inflicting serious damage to the neck and back caused by excessive stress and strain (would you walk around town whilst having your head turned up towards the sky?), but conveniently forgetting in the process that a swimming pool is filled with water, so expecting to keep your hair dry, in perfect condition (like you’ve just stepped out of the hairdressers) and not be splashed by other swimmers, is completely unreasonable.  Now this particular pool does not have designated lanes, you just have to pick a space and go for it and on the whole, it is usually fine, until the aqua ladies (and they have a fierce reputation) get in up to ten minutes early and even though it is clear that you are swimming lengths will stand in your way, chatting and doing their warm-up (diving skills then become really handy and also the ability to slalom swim).
I probably have got off quite lightly, but others not so.  Lynne, a member of a swimming group on Facebook, confessed recently that she purposefully elbowed another swimmer and I think she did the right thing.  Lynne was overtaking a slower swimmer and another guy (with fins) decided to overtake her at the same time.  There was another swimmer coming in the opposite direction and it was a dogs’ breakfast, so she elbowed fins guy.  The fins guy should have held back and waited, after all you wouldn’t have done this whilst driving, or swam underneath (the fins would have given him the speed needed to do this).
Rich's Injured Arm
Rich's Injured Arm


Another member of the group, Rich and his swimming partner Mary, actually experienced physical assault by a slower swimmer.  The elderly lady in question, pushed off directly in front of Rob and Mary and because of her extreme slowness, it was necessary for them to overtake.  Now admittedly, overtaking isn’t the easiest thing to do, but fortunately the swimming lane was wide and not busy.  As they passed the woman, she scratched and pulled at them both and continued to swim as if nothing had happened.

Everybody has the right to swim, but common sense must also be used.  Larger swimming pools have designated lanes for different speeds; if you know you are a slow swimmer, please don’t put yourself in a fast lane, as it will just hold up everyone else!  Pay attention to the swimming pool timetable, it will give you a good idea of what is going on and when and will help to make your swim more enjoyable.  Be prepared to be overtaken, there will always be someone faster than you – however if you are the one overtaking, look where you going, treat it like driving down a road.  Probably the most important thing to remember is there is lots of water about please be prepared to get wet!