Swimming has significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety or depression for 1.4 million adults in Britain, according to new research released today.
In addition, almost half a million (492,000) British adults with mental health conditions who swim say that they have reduced the number of visits to a medical professional regarding their mental health as a result of swimming.
The YouGov poll, commissioned by Swim England, also reveals that more than 490,000 people have reduced, or no longer take, medication for their mental health condition as a result of swimming.
Escape with #LoveSwimming
This study comes as Swim England and 12 partners today launch the #LoveSwimming ‘Escape’ campaign encouraging adults, especially women, to embrace the mental health benefits of swimming by using the pool to escape the stress of their busy lives.
The industry-wide campaign centres on a film showing the extremes of fast-paced modern life, and the impact it can have on mental health, in contrast with the unique environment offered by swimming.
The campaign also features women who have found swimming has had a positive impact on their own mental wellbeing.
Happier and more motivated
The YouGov research shows that around 3.3 million British adults with mental health problems swim regularly, at least once every 2-3 weeks.
When asked about the impact of swimming on their day-to-day life, 43 per cent of this group of regular swimmers say it makes them feel happier, 26 per cent are more motivated to complete daily tasks and 15 per cent believe life feels more manageable.
Ian Cumming, chair of the Swimming and Health Commission, said: “These findings support the research we released last year about the many health and wellbeing benefits of swimming.
“Physical activity in any form can have a positive impact on a person’s mental health, but swimming is unique because the buoyancy of water ensures everyone is able to take part at a pace that suits them. It is particularly good for people with restricted movement.
“Research shows that simply being in water can be restorative, particularly swimming outside. People relax in many different ways – some set a target and aim to beat their time while others prefer a more leisurely swim on their own or with friends. Swimming provides that choice, and if it is regularly prescribed alongside other forms of support, swimming could have a real impact on wider society.”
Reduced risk of depression
The mental health charity Mind estimates that every year, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem.
Hayley Jarvis, head of physical activity for Mind, said: “We all know that doing physical activities like swimming is good for our bodies. But our physical health and mental health are closely linked and we know from our own Get Set to Go programme that being physically active can also be very beneficial for our mental health too.
“If you’re more active there’s good evidence to suggest that at most ages, there’s a trend towards lower rates of depression. In fact, one study has found that by increasing your activity levels from doing nothing, to exercising at least three times a week, you can reduce your risk of depression by up to 30 per cent.”
Swim England is committed to ensuring everyone is able to take advantage of the many health and wellbeing benefits of swimming. This includes encouraging health professionals to signpost people with long-term conditions to take up swimming.
Elaine McNish, head of health and wellbeing at Swim England, said: “These findings are very encouraging and support our work to create aquatic exercise classes that GPs and health professionals can recommend to people with mental health concerns.”