Mental health and swimming

In a recent report commissioned by the National Governing body for Swimming, exercise in water and swimming in particular, is proved to have a positive effect on mental health.

The Swim England report goes on to say  “ research reveals that 1.4 million adults in Britain felt that swimming had significantly reduced their symptoms of anxiety or depression. Swimming is also associated with improved sleep and improved quality of life in people with long-term conditions”

John Hill learnt to swim when he retired

The YouGov poll, commissioned by Swim England, reveals that as a direct result of swimming: 492,000 British adults with mental health conditions have reduced the number of visits to medical professionals regarding their mental health and have reduced or no longer take medication for their mental health.

As a form of physical exercise, swimming is hard to beat. However, in addition to all the obvious physical health benefits, there’s something mentally therapeutic about being near or in water that’s much harder to put your finger on. If you’re a regular swimmer, you’ve no doubt experienced it yourself.

Once you overcome the barriers that stop two thirds of the country ever getting wet, the feeling can become addictive. According to writer Mike James the benefits are enormous,

“Regular swimming, even just half an hour at a time, is known to be effective for lowering incidences of depression and anxiety and improve sleep patterns. Swimming releases endorphins, the natural feelgood hormones that lead us to experience a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.

Swimming is a fun and effective way to relieve stress, possibly more so than other type of physical exercise. Being in contact with water, by itself, can help to loosen up both body and mind. Better still, being immersed in water while swimming, playing close attention to your technique as you practise the regular rhythm of your swimming strokes can have a very relaxing, almost meditative effect on the mind.

What’s more, scientific studies in rats have shown that swimming can help generate new brain cells in those parts of the brain where chronic stress has led to cell deterioration – it’s a process called hippocampal neurogenesis. While the research has not progressed far enough to be able to make any firm predictions for humans, it is just possible that swimming might enhance our ability to process stress more easily.

While 1 in 6 people in the UK suffer from depression, physical activity such as swimming can lead to a 30% improvement in self-worth, increasing general satisfaction in life. In research carried out with the participation of 4,000 swimmers across the world, ¾ agreed that water based activities helped release tension, while 68% of people felt being in the water made them feel happier in themselves

“For adults living with conditions such as dementia, swimming is a great way to improve memory, focus and concentration. A recent study showed that being immersed in water boosts the blood flow to the brain. This increases the supply of oxygen, glucose and nutrients which would suggest a positive impact on brain health.

Ashley Christopher, teacher at Shirley Pool, in training for the English Channel

Blue is abundant throughout the natural world – it’s associated with water, the colour of the vast ocean and the endless sky. The human body is made of about 70% water – no wonder, then, that many people feel drawn towards water and that being near the sea has a soothing influence on the mind”

 Shirley Pool Timetable

Learn more about adult learn to Swim Now      Book a free trail adult lesson

Read more on the benefits of swimming

Read about the middle aged Dad who decided to have lessons at Shirley Pool and has now swum the Channel

Swim England Report