How can swimming benefit your mental health?
It’s no secret that exercise and sports can have a positive impact on your mental well-being. It’s been a popular idea for decades, so much so, professional health bodies like the NHS list physical activity as a step you can take to improve your mental well-being. The NHS website says physical activity can help people with mild depression and protect people from developing anxiety.
This is supposedly due to the chemical changes exercise causes in our brains that might positively influence our moods. It’s why today, we’ll be looking at what these chemical reactions are, how they protect our health, and the unique benefits that swimming in particular has on our mental well-being.
That feel-good feeling
Our brain chemistry is delicate. People who live with certain mental health conditions, like depression, often have an imbalance in their brain chemistry along with other life experiences which may exacerbate symptoms. Exercise can help mitigate some of these symptoms, particularly in mild cases, by encouraging the release of feel-good brain chemicals.
You may have heard about endorphins. They’re neurotransmitters and are the chemicals responsible for feelings like ‘runner’s high’. They help to relieve stress and pain and come in many forms like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
Dopamine motivates us to go towards our goals by giving a reinforcing pleasure when we achieve them or do something we enjoy. Sometimes, dopamine plays a role in addiction, and not always in a good way. But, with sports, it can drive you to be your best and make you feel good while you’re doing it.
Depression often appears when serotonin is low or absent, but this neurotransmitter usually flows when we feel significant and important. These feelings may stem from competing in sport and being part of a team.
Taking part in physical activity sometimes stimulates the release of noradrenaline. It’s a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating cognition, motivation, and intellect. These are fundamental influencers on forming social relationships, but social dysfunction is one of the largest factors affecting the quality of life in those with depression. Stimulating the release of this chemical could help people navigate the impacts of mild mental health issues.
Swimming for better mental health
While exercise might be good for your mental health, there are specific benefits that come with swimming. There have been extensive studies into the relationship between swimming and mental health, with Swim England finding swimming helped 1.4 million adults in the UK experience reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Also, 43% of people said swimming made them feel happier.
One aspect we may not think about is how swimming improves the lives of those recovering from injury or suffering from chronic pain. Swimming is often an integral part of the rehabilitation process and can help relieve some forms of chronic pain. This provides many people with a much-needed confidence boost on their road to recovery and hope that their physical ailments might continue to improve. The positive progress achieved through swimming can be influential to your happiness and life-satisfaction.
We often prescribe exercise as the first line of defence against mental health problems, helping to regulate brain chemistry. But swimming is often recommended by professionals as one of the best forms of exercise for mental health. Why not give it a try?
At Maru, we care about swimmers. We want all swimmers to be happy, healthy, and comfortable in the pool and within themselves. That’s why we designed such a broad range of beautiful swimming costumes. There is something for everyone. Take a look online now!