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Swimming For Mental Health: How Exercise Benefits The Mind

Swimming For Mental Health: How Exercise Benefits The Mind

Swimming has long been regarded as one of the best forms of exercise you can do, both for your cardiovascular health and muscular strength. But it also offers several benefits for your mind too, boosting your sense of wellbeing, happiness and positive mental health. If you’re curious about the mental health benefits of swimming, here’s what the science says about why we should all be swimming more.

Picture of a man sitting in a bench by the pool contemplating. Swimming For Mental Health and How Exercise Benefits The Mind
Swimming For Mental Health

Improves brain health

One of the benefits of exercise is that it improves circulation and boosts blood flow. Healthy blood flow is vital for keeping the brain healthy and protecting your brain from damaging toxins. The more you get your heart pumping, the more oxygen your body can supply to the brain, and that improves blood vessel function which can help to improve executive function, working memory and flexible thinking. Give your circulation a boost and help preserve your brain health by adding swimming into your exercise routine.

Increases confidence and self-esteem

The stronger you get, both physically and mentally, the more confident you feel in yourself and your abilities. There is no end to the physical achievements and benefits that can come from exercising regularly, but swimming is an exercise built on endurance and stamina, and that can do wonders for your self-esteem. Building a regular exercise regime, such as swimming a few times a week, can build up your physical strength and your confidence in what your body is able to achieve.

Reduces stress and anxiety

The rhythmic nature of swimming makes it a great activity for soothing the mind and reducing anxiety. It’s a form of mindfulness that provides a break for your mind from the constant chatter of everyday life.

“In our daily lives, many of us are cruising through on autopilot rather than being more present in the moment”,
explains a leading psychotherapist,
“Mindfulness helps us tune into our present feelings and thoughts and makes us less susceptible to falling into the mental ruts that lead to depressive or anxious thoughts”.
If you’re someone who finds meditation difficult, the gentle, soothing practise of swimming can be a great replacement to quiet the mind and reduce stress.

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Gets people socialising

Swimming is a great activity for exercising alone, but it doesn’t have to be a solo activity. In fact, it can be a really effective way of meeting like-minded people and broadening your friendship group. Whether you meet up with people after you’ve been swimming, take part in a challenge, join a swimming group or take part in exercise classes to build up your strength, swimming can be a brilliant way to meet new people and widen your social circle, which in turn can be great for your mental health and happiness.

Releases endorphins

One of the primary reasons why we feel so great after a session at the pool, a workout at the gym or a run is that exercising releases endorphins. Endorphins are hormones produced in the pituitary gland as a response to stress or pain, working as a natural form of pain relief. Endorphins react with the receptors in the brain to reduce the perception of pain, and when they’re combined with serotonin, they can increase the sense of positivity and happiness.

Great practice for regulated breathing

Regulating your breathing is essential for swimming, but it offers benefits outside of the pool too. When you’re stressed or panicked, you may have noticed that your breathing becomes frantic and quick-paced. In extreme cases, this can lead to hyperventilating and panic attacks, and it can be hard to get yourself out of that cycle of worry and fear. But swimming can be good practice for preventing that cycle from occurring in the first place, helping you moderate your breath and take in air in a controlled manner.

When you’re swimming, you’re working your lungs and forcing them to inhale and exhale evenly, which helps to keep you relaxed and prevents your body from slipping into a panic. Breath is connected to the nervous system, so it’s a powerful way to relieve panic and calm yourself in stressful situations.

The ‘Blue Mind’ theory

The ‘Blue Mind’ theory is connected to water, calm and peace. It’s the notion that as humans, we’re drawn to blue spaces and when we’re surrounded by bodies of water, we immediately have a feeling of wellness and positivity. According to the author of the book Blue Mind, Dr Wallace J. Nichols,
“research has shown that being near, in, on or under water can provide a long list of benefits for our mind and body, including lowering stress and anxiety, increasing an overall sense of wellbeing and happiness, a lower heart and breathing rate, and safe, better workouts”.

According to their research, just being in contact with water can induce neurochemicals which make us happier and less stressed. When you bring exercise into the mix, it also makes you healthier, for better wellbeing overall.

Dive into a happier, healthier life

As we’ve explored, swimming offers many more benefits than just being good for your physical health. From releasing endorphins to lower stress, to the well-being we feel when we’re around bodies of water, and the mindful activity that makes swimming akin to meditation. It’s a valuable exercise for your mental health and happiness. If you want to lower your stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression, or simply add in an activity into your weekly schedule that has the potential to make you happier and improve your mental health, swimming is a great solution.

Mike James
Author's bio:
'Mike James is an experienced freelance writer. Originally from Redhill, England, he enjoys creating well-researched and engaging content on a wide variety of topics for many high-quality websites'

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