The Magic of Swimming: a Mental Relief from Stress, Anxiety

This year has been one of the hottest on record in the United States. As the temperature goes up, many Americans will want to visit bodies of water to escape the oppressive heat that is currently ravaging the country.

Swimming has been shown to be an excellent alternative for various physical workouts. Swimming, according to Swim England, provides a full-body workout, and just 30 minutes of swimming is equivalent to 45 minutes of a full-body workout on land. Furthermore, people who swim for recreation can burn more than 400 calories per hour, which is nearly double the number of calories that walking can burn in the same amount of time.

Water activities also have a lower impact on the body than walking, making them suitable for people with minor injuries and even the elderly. Swimming has also been shown to improve people’s well-being along with these benefits.

The Swimming and Health Commission of Swim England discovered in 2017 that people who swim regularly are 28% less likely to die prematurely and 41% less likely to die from cardiac diseases and stroke.

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The mental state could improve with water

According to scientific evidence, people’s stress responses are lowered when they are near the ocean or other bodies of water. Dopamine, the feel-good hormone, is released when you immerse yourself in cold water. Furthermore, the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom stated that the anti-inflammatory properties of cold water could reduce the likelihood of anxiety and depression.

Being near the so-called “blue environment” is transformative stated Dr. Mark Lieber. “My first thought as I dove under the surface of the water was that I felt a little more buoyant than usual, likely due to the added pounds brought on by quarantine,” he said.

“But as I continued to glide through the water, my initial concern about weight gain was replaced by a feeling of catharsis, as though the water were cleansing me of the stress that had accumulated during the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Stroke after stroke, I could feel my mood lifting, my mind clearing and my body loosening.”

Swimming’s mental impact is especially significant in the United Kingdom, where Swim England discovered that nearly half a million Brits living with mental health issues visit medical professionals less frequently.

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Living with the help of swimming

Rachel Ashe, the founder of Mental Health Swims, is a perfect illustration of what water can do to help with mental health issues. When Ashe was diagnosed with a mental illness four years ago, she was determined to help herself, so she began running. However, she found it difficult to keep up with the exercise because she encountered obstacles along the way, such as slipping on ice during winter runs.

Her mental state degenerated after she stopped running, but she did not give up. Instead, Ashe participated in Loony Dook, an annual event that brings together people who want to swim across the freezing waters of Edinburgh, Scotland. This is where she discovered her new passion.

After the event, Ashe recalled, “It was very painful, and I didn’t enjoy it. But the very alien feeling of connection with my body after living unhappily in my poorly mind for such a long time was a real epiphany moment for me.”

Ashe then began gathering others, encouraging them to try swimming and see the benefits for themselves. And it was at this point that she founded Mental Health Swim. Within six months, Ashe was able to convince thirty people to join her; the group is now up, swimming, and growing.

“I have learned that my differences are a strength rather than something to be ashamed of,” added Ashe. “I never thought I could do the things I do today.”

“I will always have a mental illness, but I am much better at looking after myself these days. I still have big feelings, but with medication, therapy, outdoor swimming and healthy, happy relationships, I am doing really well.”

Source: CNN

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