New report shows health benefits of aquatic facilities


A newly released report by Royal Life Saving Society - Australia shows that the average visit to Australia’s public pools leads to health benefits worth nearly $27, underlining the importance of ensuring universal access to public swimming pools.

The report shows the social cost of physical inactivity in the Australian population, especially among the 40% of Australians who are classified as “inactive”. Currently, only 1% of Australians meet the standard for “high physical activity” as set by the World Health Organization.

Even one extra visit to a public swimming pool each week would be enough to shift most “inactive” Australians up to “low activity”, cutting their risk of lifestyle-related disease by 16% and saving more than $4,500 per person in the form of better health, reduced medical costs and improved work attendance each year.

These potential health gains mean that the average pool visit might cost $6 to $8, but is worth nearly $27 to Australian society in health gains alone, with the average aquatic facility producing $2.72 million worth of health benefits annually.

“We’re just starting to understand the full range of benefits that come from ensuring access to public swimming pools for water safety, exercise and recreation,” says Justin Scarr, Royal Life Saving Society - Australia CEO. “Public swimming pools help to keep Australians safe, healthy and happy and we need to remember just how much good they can do when thinking about funding for new facilities and much needed upgrades.”

Research released today by Royal Life Saving Society - Australia shows that every visit to a public swimming pool creates health benefits worth $26.39, meaning that the average aquatic facility creates improved health outcomes worth $2.72 million each year to Australian society.

The report, titled 'Economic Benefits of Australia’s Public Aquatic Facilities', outlines the economic burden of physical inactivity in Australia, which costs the health system $3.7 billion each year and leads to death and disability costing $48 billion – accounting for 5% of the overall burden of death and disability in Australia.

Data on Australians’ exercise habits shows that nearly 40% of the population is currently classified as “physically inactive” by World Health Organization standards, as they manage less than 60 minutes of vigorous exercise each week - leading to increased risk of Type II Diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Economic analysis carried out by Royal Life Saving Society – Australia shows that an additional weekly visit to a public swimming pool would be enough to lift most Australians out of the “physically inactive” category, leading to improved health outcomes, reduced health system costs and better attendance at work.

Based on the dollar value of these improved health outcomes, the report shows that an extra swimming pool visit by a randomly selected Australian is worth, on average, $26.39, meaning that Australia’s aquatic facilities produce $2.8 billion in health benefits each year, over and above their value as sources of recreation, community and aquatic education.

The report underlines the importance of providing all Australians with access to safe, high quality aquatic facilities, not just for much-needed recreation and to help them learn about water safety, but to help them remain active and healthy as well.

Dr. Paul Barnsley, the study’s author, says “we knew going in, that swimming was a great way of keeping active, but we were shocked to find out just how effective even a single weekly swimming pool visit can be in cutting the costs of physical inactivity. Now we need to make sure that everyone is in a position to take advantage of those benefits – if we don’t find the money for pools we’ll end up paying for it via the health system.”

“We want to encourage all Australians to make full use of their local public swimming pool, not only this summer, but throughout the year, and to enjoy the health benefits of swimming” says Justin Scarr, CEO Royal Life Saving Society – Australia.

A range of spokespeople are available to speak to this release including Justin Scarr, CEO and Amy Peden, National Manager Research and Policy from Royal Life Saving Society - Australia.

Media enquiries to Media Key on (03) 9769 9488 or 0409 420 112.