Anxiety is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders, affecting about one thor d of the population worldwide. People often say exercise is the best medicine — but how does it work? In our Science Talks series, we will be delving into research-based evidence that shows how swimming can improve your physical and mental well-being.
1. Endorphins, endorphins, endorphins!
Aerobic exercise such as swimming increases the production of feel-good chemicals called endorphins in your brain.
According to sports and exercise psychologist, J. Kip Matthews, Ph.D., “endorphins, which are structurally similar to the drug morphine, are considered natural painkillers often associated with opioid receptors in the brain that help minimize discomfort.”
Moreover, endorphins produce a sense of euphoria that is often associated with reduced stress and improved mood.
2. Breathing & Tension Release
When you are anxious or stressed, your heart rate increases, your muscles tense up and you breathe faster. Swimming is a great way to calm your body down naturally and reduce the physical manifestation of anxiety symptoms. When you swim, you stretch your muscles and regulate your breathing, which allows your body to release tension. As a result, once your body relaxes, your mind relaxes too.
A 2012 study from Speedo found that 74% of those surveyed agreed swimming helps release stress and tension. The international study of swimmers aged 16-45 revealed swimmers feel less stressed, more confident and mentally refreshed after taking a dip in the pool.
Commonly used in psychotherapy to help reduce anxiety, mindfulness meditation involves high self-awareness and moment-to-moment attention in an intentional, purposeful and non-judgmental manner. Swimming helps you practice mindfulness – as your body works hard, your mind is focused on your thoughts and sensations in the moment.
A licensed psychotherapist, Moby Coquillard, explains, “Swimming, because of its repetitive nature, is incredibly meditative.”
There’s even a built-in mantra, which can be a slow count of laps or self-directed thoughts like “relax” or “stay smooth.” He compares swimming to his mindfulness-based cognitive therapy class.
“We use to focus on the body in the moment to keep past thoughts or future worries from invading our consciousness,” Coquillard says.
4. The Psychology of Colour
Believe it or not – some colors are better than others for your mental well-being. Research suggests blue colors may promote soothing effects and reduce anxiety. Being around blue colors (like the swimming pool) promotes a positive mood and attitude!
Blue Mind science proves the benefits of being in or near the water. Wallace Nicols is a marine biologist who wrote the 2014 book, Blue Mind agrees.
“Most communities are built near bodies of water not just for practical reasons, but because as humans, we’re naturally drawn to blue space,” Nicols says.
Whether you’re swimming in your pool, the ocean, the lake or a river, you can experience blue’s calming effects.
5. It Just Works
What better way to show the benefits than through proven results? In a research study with 4,000 swimmers, 75% said water-based activities helped release tension. Another 68% agreed being in the water made them feel happier. Swimming has therapeutic benefits to people in many different ways and somehow, it just seems to work.
Ready to start swimming? Book a lesson with AquaMobile here!