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Swimming improves mental health, study finds

Physical activity in any form can have a positive impact on a person’s mental health, but swimming is unique. If regularly prescribed alongside other forms of support, swimming could have a real impact on wider society
– Ian Cumming, chair of the Swimming and Health Commission

New research into the mental health benefits of swimming has been released by Swim England, with the results suggesting a positive link between regular visits to the pool and a better mental outlook on life.

The research - a poll by YouGov - centred on 4,119 adults, of whom 1,084 were people with mental health problems who don't ever swim; and 217 were people with mental health problems who swim regularly. Extrapolating this across the nation, there are around 3.3 million British adults with mental health problems who swim regularly, and around 16.5 million that swim ever, the study contends.

When asked about the impact of swimming on their daily lives, 43 per cent said they feel happier, 26 per cent are more motivated to complete daily tasks, and 15 per cent believe that life feels more manageable. Three per cent of adults with mental health problems and who swim ever said they have reduced or no longer take medication for their condition as a result of swimming. On a national level, this would equate to just under half a million people. Eight per cent of this same group also claim that swimming has significantly reduced their symptoms - almost 1.4 million people on a UK-wide basis.

The results coincide with the launch of Swim England’s #LoveSwimming ‘Escape’ campaign, which encourages adults, especially women, to embrace the mental health 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 the water ensures everyone is able to take part at a pace that suits them," said Ian Cumming, chair of the Swimming and Health Commission, which produced its own research last year on the health and wellbeing benefits of swimming.

"If it is regularly prescribed alongside other forms of support, swimming could have a real impact on wider society."

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