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.

Results of YouGov poll commissioned by Swim England

The YouGov poll1, 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 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.

The YouGov research shows that around 3.3 million British adults with mental health problems swim regularly, at least once every 2-3 weeks.

Swim England

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 Commission2, said:

These findings support the research we released last year about the many health and wellbeing benefits of swimming3.

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, 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.

 YouGov poll results

1All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4119 adults of which 1084 people with mental health problems ever swim and 217 with mental health problems who swim regularly. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th - 11th September 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

2The Swimming and Health Commission was established by Swim England to identify evidence for the health benefits of swimming and to promote future research in this area. Although established by Swim England, the Commission operates entirely independently under the chairmanship of Professor Ian Cumming.

3The Health and Wellbeing Benefits of Swimming was commissioned by the Swimming and Health Commission and published in June 2017. Access the key findings and full report here: www.swimming.org/swimengland/health-and-wellbeing-benefits-of-swimming

About the #LoveSwimming campaign

The #LoveSwimming campaign is delivered by Swim England in partnership with 1lifeActive NationCircadian TrustEveryone ActiveFreedom LeisureGLLGateshead CouncilLeicester City CouncilNottingham City Council, Nuffield HealthPlaces for PeopleSerco   

The partnership was established through the Swim Group; a group of industry representatives with the responsibility to advise and set the strategic direction for swimming in England by promoting partnerships and best practice throughout the sector.  The aim of the #LoveSwimming is to increase the overall visibility of swimming by coordinating messages and communications across the sector.  

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