Anxiety is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders, affecting about one third of the population worldwide. People often say that 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 both 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 because they activate opioid receptors in the brain that help minimize discomfort.” Moreover, endorphins produces a sense of euphoria, which 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 start to 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, allowing your body to release its tension. As a result, once your body relaxes, your mind relaxes too.
Commonly used in psychotherapy to help reduce anxiety, mindfulness meditation involves heightened self-awareness and moment-to-moment attention in an intentional, purposeful, and non-judgemental manner. Swimming can help you to 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, saying that “we use focus on the body in the moment to keep past thoughts or future worries from invading our consciousness.”
4. The Psychology of Colour
Believe it or not – some colours are better than others for your mental well-being. Research suggests that blue colours may promote soothing effects and reduced anxiety. Being around blue colours (like the swimming pool!) consequently enhances a positive mood and attitude.
5. It Just Works
What better way to show the benefits of swimming than through proven results? In a research study with 4,000 swimmers, 75% said that water-based activities helped release tension and 68% agreed that 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!
How has swimming helped you reduce stress and anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.