Depression is increasingly common. Major depression is the leading cause of disability in Americans between the ages of 15-44, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And it is not just the U.S. that struggles with depression; the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 5 percent of the world population suffers from depression.
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.
Exercise can reduce stress and produce feel-good hormones and chemicals in our brains, like serotonin and endorphins. Swimming is particularly effective for all ages and all physical abilities at reducing stress, depression and anxiety for many reasons:
- 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 (our body’s natural pain killers) and other stress-reducing hormones.
- Since swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise it allows even those with painful joints, disabilities or injury to exercise weightlessly and without pain.
- Hydrotherapy, using water to balance the body and mind, can help with depression. Diving into cold water is invigorating and mood-boosting (after the initial shock of the cold, of course).
- Bathing, being submerged in water, can produce a calming effect and improve mood.
So, next time you are feeling down, stressed out or anxious, go for a swim and see if it helps.
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