Open Water Swimming and Mental Health

  • Wellbeing

A lot of progress has been made recently when it comes to tackling the stigma of mental health. Whilst there is no golden bullet to fix the current mental health crisis, there are things that have been shown to impact in a positive way how we are feeling mentally. Open water swimming is one of those.  

We’ve looked at some of those reasons and helped explain why below: 

1. Releases endorphins (The science bit)

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 strong belief that open water 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, clear your mind and reduce anxiety. Some spas and leisure facilities have taken this even further and 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. Natural benefits

Findings have suggested that swimming in 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 down to being by the sea. More research needs to be done in this area. 

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 our Beyond Swim venues encourage socialising – because they are also key community places. Whether it’s meeting in the cafe afterwards, taking part in a swim challenge or just having a natter by the side, our venues are great places to meet new people. Just ask our Beyond Swim pass holders! 

So whatever your reasons for open water swimming, there are plenty of benefits for both body and mind so even as the weather begins to turn, find your nearest open water and dive in!