It’s been heard on the radio and spoken in times of struggle, “don’t worry, be happy.” However, it is not always easy to remind yourself. Even in these challenging times, there are ways we can help manage our stress. Different forms of exercise, such as swimming, have been proven to provide strong, lasting benefits for our mental and physical health.
The Struggle of Mental Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of anxiety and depression have significantly increased in the United States during April to June of 2020, compared to the same time in 2019. Additionally, over 30 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with anxiety and/or depression in late June 2020.
Mental Health and Swimming
Depression varies from person to person, it comes in many different forms and there are myriad triggers and reasons for feeling hopeless and helpless. Just as causes of depression vary, so do cures, but exercise has been shown to help.
Swimming is particularly effective for all ages and all physical abilities at reducing stress, depression and anxiety for many reasons:
1. Swimming releases endorphins
Exercise can reduce stress and produce feel-good hormones and chemicals in our brains, like serotonin and endorphins. As a good form of exercise, swimming can release these powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.
2. Swimming gets the whole body moving
Mental health illnesses, such as depression, are positively impacted through getting the body moving with activities like swimming. Swimming is a proven way to work your entire body and cardiovascular system. For example, just one hour of swimming can burn almost as many calories as running.
In addition, using swimming to burn calories and get the whole body moving will help you get better sleep at night – which means you’ll have more energy in the day.
3. Swimming gives feelings of relaxation and positivity
The long muscle movements and deep breathing required in swimming, much like in yoga, stimulate the brain to promote nerve cell growth and release endorphins and other stress-reducing hormones.
Additionally, swimming promotes changes in the brain, including neural growth and new activity patterns that create feelings of calm.
4. Swimming gets you away from screens
According to a study from Concordia University, survey responders who depended on screens for entertainment and social media had up to 19 percent more emotional stress. These days, screens and notifications are hard to avoid, but setting time aside to unplug and get moving is becoming increasingly important. Swimming is a great way to take a break from the stimulation of calls, texts, news alerts, social media updates and “urgent” emails.
5. Swimming is inclusive to all ages and abilities
Since swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise it allows even those with painful joints, disabilities or injury to exercise weightlessly and without pain. From home or at an aquatic facility, hydrotherapy is a great way to use physical therapy practices to accelerate rehabilitation or ease chronic pain. By leveraging a feeling of weightlessness, hydrotherapy enables swimmers to perform exercises that might be too difficult to do outside of the water.
Next time you are feeling down, stressed out or anxious, go for a swim and see if it helps.
Prioritizing strong mental health is as important as physical health and exercise can improve both. Invest time today to release endorphins and boost overall mood by jumping in the pool.
* Originally published on: May 13, 2015