Mak­ing a splash with healthy liv­ing

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Julie Finch Chief ex­ec­u­tive, Chel­tenham Trust

AS a keen open air swim­mer, I was not at all sur­prised by re­search just pub­lished by Yougov on be­half of Swim Eng­land that high­lights swim­ming as a key ac­tiv­ity to help men­tal well­be­ing, with over one mil­lion peo­ple with men­tal health con­di­tions ben­e­fit­ting from the ac­tiv­ity.

Nearly half a mil­lion (492,000) Bri­tish adults with men­tal health prob­lems who swim say that they have re­duced the num­ber of vis­its to a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional re­gard­ing their men­tal health con­di­tion as a re­sult.

And swim­ming has meant over 490,000 peo­ple have re­duced or no longer take med­i­ca­tion for their men­tal health con­di­tion.

Why am I not sur­prised? Well, for cen­turies, hu­mans have been tak­ing to the wa­ter to im­prove their bod­ies and minds, from the min­eral rich waters in spas such as our own here in Chel­tenham, to brac­ing cold baths deigned to strength men­tal con­sti­tu­tion and phys­i­cal state.

Tak­ing the plunge in cold wa­ter soothes achey mus­cles, and can boost the im­mune sys­tem. All wild-dip­pers know the nat­u­ral en­dor­phin high that raises your mood, creat­ing an al­most ad­dic­tive urge to dive back in.

And once you are in, whether it’s a pool, lake or the sea, it’s very med­i­ta­tive: the gen­tle stretch­ing of mus­cles, and the rep­e­ti­tion of strokes, com­bined with deep breath­ing, helps to re­lax and de-stress in a sim­i­lar way to yoga.

Swim­ming suits all per­son­al­i­ties – the in­tro­verts amongst us can snap on gog­gles and re­treat into our own pri­vate sen­sory bub­ble, while the ex­tro­verts can en­joy the com­pany of oth­ers and the post-swim hot drink.

There’s a lot of de­bate about longer term ben­e­fits - some be­lieve re­peated cold wa­ter swim­ming makes the body adapt in cer­tain ways such as a re­duc­tion in blood pres­sure and choles­terol.

En­ergy cre­ated by keep­ing warm in cold wa­ter may pos­si­bly help burn off more fat (we’re all ever op­ti­mistic!). Last but not least, you have to leave your smart phone on the side – so you get a mini dig­i­tal detox too.

What­ever you be­lieve in terms of ben­e­fits, the sheer joy of swim­ming out­side, com­bined with the phys­i­cal ex­er­cise, will in­vig­o­rate you, make you glow and just make you feel good in­side and out.

That’s re­ally what Swim Eng­land is say­ing. That swim­ming – in­deed any ex­er­cise – will im­prove your well­be­ing. It gets you out and gets you mov­ing – you are con­cen­trat­ing on some­thing other than prob­lems and wor­ries.

I’m not sug­gest­ing ev­ery­one starts swim­ming in the wilds – it’s not al­ways prac­ti­cal and it does start to get a bit chilly around now. If you do fancy it, make sure the spot you choose is safe and that some­one knows where you are in case you get into any dif­fi­culty. And please check with your GP first that it’s suit­able for you.

If it’s not, or you want some­thing a bit warmer, I’d love to see you at our pool at Leisure At, where we are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to get in­volved in Swim Eng­land’s new #Loveswim­ming ini­tia­tive. And if wa­ter re­ally isn’t your thing, we have nine free ‘Walk­ing Well’ walks ev­ery week, led by trained vol­un­teer lead­ers.

All you need to do is sim­ply turn up with a sturdy pair of shoes and away you go. I prom­ise you, what­ever you de­cide on to get your heart pump­ing, you will feel great af­ter­wards.

All wild­dip­pers know the nat­u­ral en­dor­phin high that raises your mood, creat­ing an al­most ad­dic­tive urge to dive back in.

Julie Finch

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