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FEATURES,  Opinion

How the cost of living crisis has affected your swimming

If you’re making cutbacks, you’re not alone.

In our Attitudes to Outdoor Swimming survey, almost one in three swimmers say the cost of the living crisis has negatively impacted their activities. While a wild swim might be free, swimmers (mostly) at least need a costume, a towel, and warm clothes for after. Other accessories, such as goggles and tow floats make swimming more pleasant or safer. However, 12% of people say they have ‘delayed, reduced or cancelled kit purchases’ because they want to reduce outgoings.

Another 1 in 10 have reduced swimming-related travel. For example, they have changed where they swim or reduced how often they swim to avoid car parking costs and save petrol. A number say they only swim now when they can share a ride.

And not everyone is lucky enough to have an accessible wild swim spot where they feel confident to swim. They want the reassurance of lifeguards and water quality checks you get at commercial venues. But as this is something you need to pay for, 1 in 10 say they have reduced visits to those too.

Other changes people have made include cancelling gym memberships, reducing the frequency of pool swimming and delaying event entries. The impact will be felt throughout the outdoor swimming world. Several coaches already report that business is down.

What you said

Here is a short selection of the direct comments swimmers left for us:

  • I’ve held off on buying kit and tried to improvise or make do with what I already have. As much as I dislike the pool, I’d go more often if I could justify the cost, and I’ve put off trying a nearby outdoor venue, again because of the cost.
  • The distance I travel to swim has had to reduce due to cost, therefore I can swim less often in the sea than I used to.
  • It’s made swimming less attractive because of returning to cold house.
  • Using more of my free time to work has reduced my water time.
  • I know I can’t buy any new kit. I am only entering one event next year and one in 2024.
  • More likely to swim on my own as group events incur a charge.
  • Swimming holidays will now be too expensive. l was hoping to go next year.
  • I was going to start pool swimming but have not now.
  • Less after-swim coffee and cake.

It’s only swimming – or is it?

An outsider might say: “It’s only swimming. What does it matter?”

I can’t find a better answer to that than this one from our survey:

“The crisis has impacted my swimming in every way; from ability to purchase and replace kit, sustain a beneficial diet, afford travel costs to and from venues, the weekly cost of the activity to the cost of laundering kit every week. With swimming being my only remaining social and fitness activity, I consider it to be absolutely vital to not just my physical health, but the only remaining pillar in my mental and emotional survival.”

Not all doom and gloom

While around a third of swimmers have been impacted by the cost of living crisis, a further two-thirds haven’t (yet) had to make any changes.  A few of those will be because they are financially secure but mostly it’s because they live close to a swimming spot and already have all the kit they need. In fact, 10% of swimmers have increased how often they swim outdoors because of the cost of living crisis. It has also made swimmers appreciate the value of wild swimming.

In the words of one swimmer from our survey:

“I already swam nearly every day so it hasn’t affected the frequency of swimming but the cost of living crisis has certainly made me appreciate swimming more and more, as a low-cost and happifying way to feel good in nature with friends.”

For more findings from our Attitudes to Outdoor Swimming survey, please look out for our Trends in Outdoor Swimming update, coming soon.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.