Promoting benefits of swimming

Newsletter n. 2, July 2010





Swimming therapy for disadvantaged people is developing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Training sessions in the Halliwick method have been taking place, and a new research project will study the benefits.


At present swimming therapy is not so widely used in Bosnia, but there is strong interest in developing it more intensively. ‘Bosnia has a large number of people who were injured during the war and in the post-war period through mines,’ says Dr Stanko Blatnik of the Slovenian IPAK institute, ‘so swimming as therapy can do a lot of good.’


IPAK are the lead partners in an initiative to make the benefits of swimming more widely known throughout Europe. With funding from the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning programme, the eSwimming project aims to spread the word through all today’s range of options for electronic communication.


The project’s Bosnia activities started in July 2009, with a short course for students at the University of Tuzla. Other courses have followed, In Bosnia and in Slovenia, and now a research project is getting under way to evaluate the benefits of swimming as therapy.


‘The general aim is twofold,’ says researcher Dr Vojko Strahovnik, who will be leading the Slovenian team in the work. ‘We will introduce the Halliwick programme and other similar therapies in educational rehabilitation work with disabled children, and we will make a scientific evaluation of the impact.’

Bosnian researchers under the leadership of Dr Edina Šarič will collaborate in the development of the project, whose outcomes will be made available for everyone involved in rehabilitation work.


The pictures show training for students at Tuzla in March this year.


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‘It’s a love you can’t explain,’ says Giuliano Callegari. ‘In the water I can express all that I feel inside me. I believe that when you swim, your whole body works, your body and your soul, and I think it makes everyone feel better.’


Giuliano, aged 27, has hearing problems. He has taken part in competitive swimming since 2002, and three years ago he met his present coach. ‘He explained that I was too stiff in my movements. It was true, probably because a deaf person has always to be careful to do everything. So he gave me specific exercises to do. The best coaches that I had were those who were able to understand my love for water, and motivated me to express all my potentialities by swimming.’


Today, Giuliano is captain of a swimming team which is composed of ‘hearing’ swimmers.


In the town of Reggio Emilia, the president of the local division of the Italian Paralympic Committee also speaks strongly about the benefits of swimming as therapy. 59-year-old Vincenzo Tota suffered from post-polio syndrome, and when physiotherapy rehabilitation began, his doctor suggested swimming.

‘It helped me to establish a good relationship with my body,’ he says. ‘Disabled people can sometimes neglect themselves, and swimming gave me a way to fight this tendency. It helped me to perceive my body better, and also to integrate with other people.’


In Reggio Emilia there are 21 sporting associations which carry out swimming activities for disabled people, and they are linked together in an overall federation, CIP.


‘All public bodies should support swimming strongly,’ says trainer Gema Contreras in the Spanish city of Granada. She has a degree in physiotherapy and a qualification in therapeutical swimming.


‘Physically, swimming improves posture, balance, coordination and overall motor activity. Cognitively, it improves concentration. Socially and emotionally, it strengthens relationships because the swimmers relate to each other and to respect the ways in which people’s conditions may be different.


‘All disabilities benefit from this therapy. The success lies in the continuity of the sessions and the motivations of the swimmers.


‘The word needs to be spread about its benefits, not only to public administrations but also to health specialists so that they recommend swimming as therapy.’


The point is emphasised by Johan Lambeck of the International Halliwick Association. ‘Swimming strengthens muscles, reduces pain and spasticity, and helps balance and posture. It also improves perseverance and mental adaptability – for example courage and will power.


‘So more web-promotion is needed. Organisations offering swimming therapy usually don’t have the capacity to carry out regular web-based promotion measures. So a project to do this can fill a gap.’


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Disabled swimming associations are always glad to welcome volunteers, and they provide training in the methods of providing assistance. But even in your armchair at home, you can help!


One way of doing so is to pass on this newsletter to your friends.

Another way is to visit the eSwimming project website (, and find out at first hand about the ways in which swimming can be taught.


From the site you can go direct to YouTube and see the new video that has been produced for the project: ‘I Feel the Water’. It shows how swimming is taught – and the sheer enjoyment that comes from it. The video is being made freely available for everyone, for showing at events or forwarding to friends.


It’s at


Help to spread the word – and make a difference.


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DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to present all information accurately, however no liability is accepted by the eSwimming project and its partners for any information referenced in this document coming from external sources. Links to external sites are provided for information purposes only, and are by no means an endorsement of the accuracy of information contained within. The authors reserve the right not to be responsible for the correctness, completeness or quality of the information provided. Liability claims regarding damage caused by the use of any information provided, including any kind of information which is incomplete or incorrect, will therefore be rejected. Analogously, every effort has been made to identify the owners of the copyright of the reference texts. In case of any error or fault we are ready to arrange for the necessary corrections.


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