5 Mental Benefits of Swimming
By Suzie Ryan, Swimming World Intern
For many of us, the pool is a place for us to escape the chaos of the world. It’s just you, the water and your teammates. When we dive into the water and take that first stroke, our problems instantly fade away as the water washes over our skin. Swimming is much more than a sport for many of us. We are often still drawn to the water long after we hang up our togs competitively because it is a great stress reliever, mood booster and helps us start our day with a clear mind.
Here are five ways swimming benefits mental health.
1. Boosts Blood Flow & Helps Mental Capacity
Research has shown that immersing yourself in water during exercise helps increase blood flow to the brain. This increased blood flow can help improve memory, mood, cognitive function, concentration and help reverse brain damage caused by everyday stress through hippocampal neurogenesis, which is the creation of new neurons in the brain. In other words, swimming regularly helps improve one’s mental state and combats mental illnesses and stress associated illnesses.
2. Helps Regulate Breathing
When swimming, you have to hold your breath. By swimming regularly, you have the ability to regulate your breathing which can guide you through stressful, panicked and anxious periods of life. When we are put in stressful situations, we can start to breath shallower and more rapid which can lead to hyperventilation.
Swimming gives us an easy breathing technique to use out of the water when we encounter stressful situations and allows us to get air into our lungs, which can help with preventing hyperventilation and panic attacks. Using the breath technique we use in the water on land can help us instantly relax and lower blood pressure, which can help benefit our mental and physical well-being.
3. Swimming Releases Endorphins
As with any form of exercise, when we swim, our brain is prompted to release feel-good chemicals into our system called endorphins. These endorphins can help our body deal with pain and stress not only in that moment but also in the hours following. Research has found that endorphins not only benefit some physical well-being but also has positive effects on our mental health by allowing our body to respond to everyday stress in a much more positive way.
4. Creates a ‘Blue Mind’
Have you ever heard of ‘Blue Mind’? Well, neither had I until I heard it in a passing conversation with a friend and decided to do some more research on it. Basically, the term ‘Blue Mind’ suggests that being in or around water will create calm and peace within one’s body and set your mind and body free.
Studies suggest that because our body is made up of 70% water, our brains immediately feel at peace and have a positive response when we are in water. This means that swimming can help increase the neurochemicals in our brain to make us happier, healthier and lowering our stress and anxiety.
5. Induces a State of Relaxation
While hard, long main sets in training and long race days may not be relaxing, swimming can actually induce a state of relaxation. Have you ever felt that feeling in the warmdown pool after a race where you just forget about everything and can only feel the water rushing over you with each stroke? That’s a state of relaxation.
Focusing on the task at hand can help take your mind off all your worries and helps induce a state of relaxation which, in turn, helps reduce stress levels within our body.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.