Wellbeing Wednesday 17th August 2022

Exercise group in the swimming pool

Jane Fowler – Head of Customer Support Services

Hello everyone and welcome again to our weekly wellbeing update. I am feeling very fortunate today, both to live in Argyll and to be able to work from home, because the pine marten that lives in the nearby forest visited our squirrel feeder as I was making coffee this morning – how lucky to see such a beautiful animal up close!

As part of the course that I am on, we are learning about how our brains are programmed to focus on ‘negative’ thoughts, This is a mechanism we evolved over thousands of years to keep us safe from danger, so our brains do it automatically.  But this is not particularly helpful in our modern lives, where we don’t encounter a big predator when we do our shopping… So if you do find that your brain is focussing more on the negative than the positive – not hard in current times – the good news is that you can change the way your brain is wired! It takes time and effort, but consciously taking the time to enjoy a moment and think about enjoying it and then remembering that moment and feeling can being to make those changes and look at the world from a different perspective.  I’ll keep looking out for that pine marten!

This week we have a couple of topics for you.  The first is about a change to Fit Notes – important for you to know about these changes – please take a moment to read through them.

And our other topic today is swimming for health and wellbeing.  You’ll remember that we covered wild swimming a while ago – perhaps a pastime for those a little more intrepid than me (you know who you are!) but swimming is something done by many more of us in the pool than the ocean and it is a great full body workout, a de-stressor and is fun! Give it a go.

Not much progress on the reading front this week – I’ve been working on an essay (as you can probably guess from the early part of this post…promise to give you an update next week).

Changes to Fit Notes (Statement of Fitness for Work)

The Office for National Statistics has reported the highest rate of sickness absence in over a decade. Employers can therefore expect to receive more fit notes from employees. There have been some important changes to streamline the process for issuing and certifying fit notes.

What is a fit note, and what can it be used for?

A ‘fit note’ provides evidence to an employer of an employee’s absence due to sickness. For statutory sick pay purposes, employees have to provide evidence of their incapacity after seven consecutive days’ absence.

Following a health assessment, a fit note may specify either that:

  • the employee is ‘not fit for work’, meaning they may not work for the stated period of time; or
  • the employee ‘may be fit for work’, which means that the employee’s condition does not necessarily stop them from returning to work. In this case the healthcare professional has the option of suggesting amendments which would assist a return to work such as a phased return, amended duties, altered hours or workplace adaptions. It is good practice for employers to discuss any comments in a fit note with employees, particularly any suggestions made regarding changes to the role. If an employer is unable to accommodate suggested changes, the fit note is treated as if it says ‘not fit for work’ – a new fit note is not required.

 

If an individual is ‘fit for work’ they will not be issued with a fit note.

A fit note is classed as advice and is not legally binding on employers, although there should always be a good reason for not complying with one. If the employee is disabled, an obligation for the employer to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ may arise.

1 July 2022: more healthcare professionals can issue fit notes

Previously, only GPs or hospital doctors could provide fit notes. However, since 1 July 2022, the following healthcare professionals have also been able to issue and certify fit notes:

  • Nurses
  • Occupational therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists

This change comes in light of significant pressure on GPs as they tackle appointment backlogs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is expected to free up millions of appointments for those needing access to GP services, allowing people to get the right support.

6 April 2022: digital fit notes

A fit note no longer needs to be ‘signed in ink’ by the person issuing it.  Since 6 April 2022, a fit note can be issued and received digitally, with the name of the issuer stated within the fit note.  While digital fit notes are being rolled out, ‘signed in ink’ fit notes remain valid.                                         

Source: Recent changes to fit notes | Brodies LLP

The Benefits of Swimming to support your Health and Wellbeing

Swimming is a great all-round form of physical activity. It’s ideal if you want to be more active and stay healthy, whatever your age or fitness level. A few 30-45 minute sessions of moderate to vigorous intensity swimming per week is a great way of working towards your recommended level of physical activity.

Health benefits

Regular swimming is proven to reduce your risk of serious illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also help you lose weight, improve general flexibility, strength and mobility. As well as improving physical health, swimming can also boost your mood and reduce stress levels to improve your mental wellbeing. 

Here are the top 8 benefits of swimming:

  1. Full body workout.  Swimming uses all the muscles in the body so whether you swim a gentle breaststrokeor hammer butterfly, you will get a full body workout. Plus, exercising in water makes your body work harder so 30 minutes in a pool is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land.
  2. Great for general wellbeing.  Just 30 minutes of swimming three times a week alongside a balanced, healthy dietand lifestyle is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy and maintain a positive mental outlook. Do it with friends, and it’s even more fun!
  3. De-stresses and relaxes.  Swimming regularly can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve your sleep patterns. Feeling the mental benefits of swimming takes just a gentle swim.
  4. Burns calories.  Swimming is one of the most effective ways to burn calories. A gentle swim can burn over 200 calories in just half an hour, more than double that of walking. And a faster swim burns more calories than running or cycling.
  5. Lowers the risk of diseases.  As well as being a great form of cardiovascular exercise, swimming just 30 minutes a week can help to guard against heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
  6. Supports the body.  Water supports up to 90 per cent of the body’s weight. Exercising in water means reduced strain on your joints when compared to other exercises like running or football. This makes swimming popular with older people and those with mobility problems, but swimming is a beneficial activity for people of any age or ability.  However, do check with a health professional first if you have any concerns and make sure you go at a pace you are comfortable with.
  7. Increases your energy levels Inactivity is often responsible for people’s lack of energy. Just 30 minutes of swimming three times per week can boost your energy levels through increased metabolic rate.
  8. Exercising without the sweat.  If sweating puts you off other forms of exercise, fear not! As a swimmer, you’ll never feel sweaty no matter how hard you work because the water around you is constantly cooling you down.

Getting Started

Don’t worry if you haven’t been swimming before or even have a fear of water. Your local pool will likely have beginners’ lessons for all ages which will help get you started and build your confidence in the water.

Once you become more confident you may want to try pool fitness classes, such as water aerobics, floatfit or aquafit, which provide similar health benefits to swimming.

If you don’t want to go alone, you could bring a friend, take your children or even join a club. Clubs are an excellent way of meeting new people, improving your swimming. 

There are also opportunities beyond the pool, such as open-water swimming such in rivers, lochs, lakes and the sea. Open water swimming can be great fun so long as you take the necessary safety precautions.

For most people, swimming is a safe, accessible and effective form of exercise. If you’re worried about an existing health condition, see your GP before you start swimming.

Information on your Local Pools and swimming clubs. For more information and advice on swimming visit:

Just Swim | Wellbeing through swimming and lifestyle

Best wild swims in Scotland | Wild Swimming – outdoors in rivers, lakes and the sea

Please let us know your thoughts and ideas about the items featured in our Wellbeing Wednesdays each week and send us your suggestions for future topics – we love to hear from you.

The Wellbeing Team:  wellbeing@argyll-bute.gov.uk