Swimming has significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety or depression for 1.4million adults in Britain, according to new research.
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.
This study comes as Swim England and 12 partners launched 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 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. It also features women who have found swimming has had a positive impact on their own mental wellbeing.
The YouGov research shows that around 3.3million British adults with mental health problems swim regularly, at least once every two or three weeks. When asked about the impact of swimming on their day-to-day life, 43% of this group of regular swimmers say it makes them feel happier, 26% are more motivated to complete daily tasks and 15% 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.”
The mental health charity Mind estimates that every year one in four 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%.”