Swimming sessions for stroke survivors help ‘improve independence’ and create a ‘positive mindset’

NewsUpdated: 15 February 2024Leisure, parks and culture

Swimming sessions for stroke survivors are giving an 86-year-old woman the confidence to be more independent in her daily life whilst creating a positive mindset.

Swimming After a Stroke sessions, run in collaboration with The Stroke Association, have been held at South Oxhey Leisure Centre, managed by Everyone Active in partnership with Three Rivers District Council, since June 2021.

Andrene Scott suffered from a stroke 10 years ago this March, having battled Breast Cancer eight years prior. Paralysing the left-hand side of her body, Andrene also suffers with restless leg syndrome.

“My stroke changed everything,” says Andrene. “I have been a keen swimmer since I was 10 years old and would go swimming every morning, but suddenly this wasn’t possible.”

“Whilst I underwent a 12-week rehab course when I was discharged from hospital, I felt like I had lost all my confidence – not just in my ability to be physically active, but also in my ability to do everyday tasks like make a cup of tea and get dressed. This is why I was thrilled to hear about the sessions aimed at stroke survivors like me.”

The sessions run in 12-week blocks and are an opportunity for attendees to participate in specific water therapy exercises whilst practicing their swimming with fellow stroke survivors.

Lead by Haylley Pittam, a fully qualified swimming and aquatic therapy instructor, the classes take place in a relaxed atmosphere as attendees use the buoyancy and resistance of the water to move their bodies and build their muscular strength.

“Swimming After a Stroke has given me so much more independence to do everyday things, and I’m now able to do more than I ever could four years ago,” said Andrene. “I can also now swim 20 widths of the pool at a time, allowing myself a brief rest at each side, and close to 30 on a good day!

“The sessions have also really helped my mental wellbeing. There’s a real community atmosphere and I can get out and be social. I also a much more positive mindset knowing I’m living life more independently alongside my children and grandchildren – I don’t know what I’d do if the sessions stopped.

“I’d encourage anyone who’s had a stroke to try the sessions and see how they can help – you don’t realise how much gentle swimming exercises can benefit your mind and body.”

On Andrene’s progress Haylley said: “When Andrene first came to me she was absolutely petrified and shaking, and our first goal was to get her walking again without using her wheelchair.

“Over time we’ve worked on getting her legs strong and stretching and mobilising her body more and more. We’re now at a point where she is starting to swim lengths in the pool.”

“It’s incredible to see how Swimming After a Stroke has helped attendees like Andrene,” adds Billy Johnston, general manager at South Oxhey Leisure Centre.

“The group also have plans to take part in a sponsored swim later this year to raise money for The Stroke Association which is an amazing effort – we can’t wait to support them as they gear up for the challenge.”

Cllr Chris Lloyd, Three Rivers District Council’s Lead Member for Leisure, said: “I am so amazed to hear Andrene’s story – it really shows us all the true power of swimming to make a difference to our lives – physically and mentally – especially after something as potentially life-changing as a stroke. I would encourage anyone in the district who thinks they or someone they know could benefit from this scheme to get in touch and go along to a session.”

All Stroke survivors who live in Watford and Three Rivers are eligible to attend the Swimming After a Stroke sessions. Classes are £5.50 per class and all participants must be known to, and have discussed attending the sessions with, a Stroke Association Coordinator. For more information, please visit: https://www.everyoneactive.com/enquiries/ or contact SouthOxheyInfo@everyoneactive.com

PHOTO CAPTION: (Left) Andrene Scott