Physios develop first aquatic activity for health qualification with Swim England

Aquatic physiotherapy specialists have collaborated with Swim England to produce the UK’s first qualification for fitness instructors that focuses on aquatic activity for health.


Exercise instructors learning about aquatic activity for health at a recent pilot course. Photo: Swim England

Swim England, the national governing body for swimming, approached the Aquatic Therapy Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (ATACP) for input on the qualification. This followed research by Swim England that found there were gaps in knowledge among fitness instructors about how to safely support people with health conditions in water. As a result, many people were not accessing community pools for health activity.

Commenting on the collaboration, Simon Stevens of Swim England, said: ‘Not only is this one of the first examples of a sport governing body working so closely with a health professional body to develop a fitness qualification, it is also unique in that some of these people will be course tutors as well.’

‘We saw this collaboration with Swim England as a way to help patients when they finish aquatic physiotherapy to have a safe and effective intervention on the pathway to continue aquatic activity for health,’ explained ATACP member Sarah Cox, who, along with another physio, is among four tutors selected to deliver the training from this summer.

Understanding physical changes in water

Ms Cox added that the aquatic activity sessions will be open to the general public, as well as referrals from health professionals. ‘As physios, we want to make sure fitness instructors know what’s safe and understand the physiological changes that happen in the water. They will not be providing one to one or specific aquatic Physiotherapy but will be more knowledgeable about their scope of practise and when they need to refer back to health’ she said.


The aquatic activity for health sessions will be piloted at two sites and a physiotherapy researcher has been recruited to analyse if the qualification boosts the confidence of local physios to refer people to the trained fitness instructors. If successful, the sessions will be implemented nationally.

Ms Cox, pictured, right, with a patient, added that it is also hoped the training would lead to fitness instructors being confident to refer participants with more complex health problems to aquatic physiotherapy. ‘Its about an offer that is fit for purpose and effective at any given stage along a patients journey.'

The new qualification is due to be presented to aquatic physiotherapists at ATACP’s study day on 17 March.

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