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  • Writer's pictureJesse Liu

Swimming and Mental Health

Hello and welcome back to my blog! For my 13th blog post, I will be writing about swimming and its connection to mental health. As you may not know, swimming is arguably the greatest cardio exercise because it tends to burn the most calories per hour when compared to other cardio exercises such as running and walking. In addition, swimming is a sport that holds dear to my heart because I swam competitively from the age of 9 up until the age of 21. I swam on club and varsity teams in high school, and also swam on club teams in college.

Let me first describe the connection between swimming and mental health. Swimming has often been noted for improving anxiety and stress. According to a 2012 survey of over a thousand swimmers ages 16 to 45, conducted by Speedo, 74 percent of respondents stated that swimming helps to release stress and tension. In the same survey, 68 percent of respondents noted that being in the water helps them to feel good about themselves. In addition, 70 percent of respondents in the survey stated that swimming helps them to feel mentally refreshed. For me personally, I did not have a mental health issue in high school, when I would swim on average two hours per day.

Swimming, like any other aerobic exercise, boosts the production of chemicals in the brain and body that improve how you feel. These chemicals in particular include endorphins, which are a group of hormones that in the brain and nervous system that stimulate opiate receptors of cells, which improves the extent to how you adapt to pain, according to U.S. Masters Swimming. In addition, swimming helps to increase the number of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin, which help you to feel better and become more resistant to stress, according to U.S. Masters Swimming. In other words, these neurotransmitters that are released in greater amounts during swimming create the phenomenon known as “Swimmer’s High”. You feel amazing after a few laps or minutes of intensive swimming.

Swimming also improves the quality of one’s sleep over time, like all types of exercise. While Americans only get on average about 6.7 hours of sleep a night, according to a survey conducted by American Psychological Association, exercise, in particular swimming, can improve one’s mood and enable one to fall asleep faster. I also personally remember in high school that I would fall asleep extremely quickly at night after an afternoon or evening swim practice.

Now let’s discuss some basic swimming topics. There are four common swimming strokes, known as butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Freestyle is the most common stroke for swimming, as it is basically front crawl and generally the easiest. Backstroke is probably the second most common stroke for swimming, as it is essentially freestyle but done on one’s back. Breaststroke is a complex type of stroke that involves a frog kick and a sweeping pull motion. Butterfly is perhaps the most difficult stroke to perform because it depends on the timing of two dolphin kicks to one pull. Swimming is definitely not an easy sport, and involves the perfection and practice of many techniques per stroke. And if technique is not done properly, or one swims too much, then one can definitely experience injury from the sport.

In general, I love the sport of swimming, and I try to swim at least once a week nowadays. I even watch the Olympic swimming events when I can!

In short, thank you for checking out this blog regarding swimming and mental health. I hope you decide to take up a lane in the pool and swim some laps! And please subscribe to my blog if interested via email at the bottom of the home page! Also, please share my blog with friends and family!

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I've been living with bipolar disorder since 2018 and I'm trying to overcome it by helping others with mental health issues/conditions!

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