Seven Benefits of Swimming for Your Mental Wellbeing

Posted on November 7, 2017

Scientific research has offered various reasons as to why we may feel positive effects from spending time in the water – be it the ocean or a swimming pool. Charlotte Vineham, a health advisor at Bupa, has compiled scientific findings on how swimming affects your mental wellbeing:

1. Releases endorphins
Swimming, like all exercise, releases endorphins in your brain. These are natural feel-good hormones that increase positivity and bring about a sense of wellbeing and happiness.

2. Reduces stress
There’s a growing interest in the idea that swimming can reduce stress more so than other sports. Studies in rats have found that swimming can help to promote the growth of new brain cells in parts of the brain which break down during chronic (long-term) stress. Although this has only been tested in animals so far, the idea follows that this could potentially have the same effect in humans. It’s therefore suggested that swimming might enhance our ability to manage and cope with stress.

3. Soothing effects
It’s thought that swimming is a particularly good way to relax your body, soothe your mind and reduce anxiety. Some spas even play relaxing music that you can only hear when you put your head under the water!

4. Boosts brain health
A small study found that just being in water increases blood flow to the brain. Participants were immersed in water up to chest height and scientists measured blood flow to the brain while they were in the water and again when they drained the pool. They suggest their findings could indicate a positive impact on brain health. A healthy blood flow to the brain is important for supplying it with oxygen, glucose and nutrients and protecting it from harmful toxins.

5. Beach benefits
Findings have suggested that immersing yourself in natural water in the open air is particularly good for positive mental wellbeing. Some research has also found that those who live closer to the coast report higher levels of good health and wellbeing, though it’s not clear if this is definitely due to being by the sea.

6. Social hubs
Swimming is a form of exercise you can do by yourself, which is great because you can go when you want and you don’t have to rely on anyone else. Yet swimming pools and leisure centres do encourage socialising – because they are also key community places. Whether it’s meeting in the cafe afterwards, taking part in a swim challenge or doing water aerobics, leisure centres are great places to meet new people, which has an immense positive effect on mental health in the long run.

7. The colour blue
There’s no concrete scientific proof that being in blue spaces improves or enhances mental wellbeing. Studies have had mixed results, but the colour blue is often thought of as calming and is abundant throughout the natural world – especially the sky and the sea on a beautiful day. You might also have heard of the term ‘biophilia’ which means love of nature and refers to our inbuilt desire to be near and connected with nature. This phenomenon could explain why we feel positive and happy when we’re by the sea or near water.

Source material from BUPA UK

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