I’ve written before about the benefits of exercise for stress management and mental health. I’m pretty sure most of you know about the “physical” benefits of exercise (that is, strength and aerobic fitness, as well as flexibility); but how many of you are fully aware of the mental health benefits that come from keeping active and exercising regularly?
Regular exercise is a potent stress-buster, and a powerful antidepressant. In addition, exercise is a magnificent mood enhancer, contributing to positive emotions such as happiness and satisfaction, pride and contentment.
And the good news is there are many, many ways to exercise. Although running, lifting weights or participating in group classes in the gym are some of the more popular methods of exercising, if you don’t like these (or just need some variety) there are numerous other options; each of which has their own advantages.
One of the best forms of exercise is swimming. Assuming you have access to a pool or beach, swimming is a great way to get and stay fit; and by fit I include mentally fit! Here’s why it can be so good:
- Exercise: as already mentioned, swimming is a great, low-impact form of exercise that almost anyone can do at any age. Like other forms of exercise, its benefits extend beyond just the physical and very much include the psychological. People who exercise regularly tend to report less stress, anxiety and depression and more happiness and satisfaction with life
- Meditation: even more than most other forms of exercise, the repetitive nature of swimming makes it very meditative. Focusing on the black line at the bottom of the pool is very similar to focusing on other targets of mindfulness or meditation and mean that while exercising, one can also enjoy the benefits of calming and centering the mind
- Time away from screens: whereas many people stay “connected” while at the gym or even running, our ever-present devices such as smartphones can’t be taken in to the pool! And this can be a very good thing. Time away from screens, including email and social media apps, has been shown to be good for our mental health and wellbeing
- Social interaction: although swimming is often viewed as a solo-endeavour, which to some extent it obviously is, there are also many swimming groups and teams and clubs in which individuals are given the opportunity to make and develop friendships. Sometimes the interaction happens in the water, other times after the session is finished; but either way, socialising is indubitably good for our mental health
- Calming and soothing: there are few experiences quite like the one where you’re totally submerged in water; almost weightless and gravity free. This is why swimming is considered by many to be so calming and relaxing. Not surprisingly, especially for those who live busy and stressful lives, finding time to relax and calm down can do wonders for our psychological wellbeing
- Sleep: although this could be said of most forms of exercise, there’s something about the combination of strenuous movement and a calming environment that means swimming is often associated with improved slumber. This is a significant benefit because insomnia, or sleep deprivation, can be very damaging to our mental health
- Achievement and accomplishment: and finally, completing a session or achieving health improvements contributes to a sense of satisfaction that can see a boost to mental health and wellbeing. Knowing we’ve done something good and knowing we’re working towards improvement is a great way to generally feel better about ourselves and our lives
So, there they are; 7 ways swimming can benefit your mental health. If you have some water nearby, dive in to this great form of exercise now!