Improve Mental Health with Swimming

by Char Jackson (nee Young)

Just like our physical health, we also need to look after our mental health. Like physical health problems, mental health problems are very common. In New Zealand, nearly half the population will meet the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis at some stage during their lives, and one in five of us will experience depression in any given year.

However those of us who swim are at an advantage as swimming has shown to have several mental health benefits.

1. Swimming releases endorphins: Endorphins are hormones which are secreted within the brain and nervous system; they bind to opioid receptors, which is why we feel good after we exercise. In turn, this improved mood can improve your physical health, improving cardiovascular function and reducing neuromuscular tension.

2. It helps you relax: The action of swimming demands the stretching and relaxation of skeletal muscles, while also deep-breathing in a rhythmic pattern. These are also the key elements of many meditation practices, such as yoga.

3. You need to be mindful: Have you heard of mindfulness? It is one of those buzz words circulating at the moment. Now don’t scoff. It has actually shown to have great mental health benefits. It has even shown to improve resilience and emotional stability. While swimming you often clear your mind, focusing only on the black like below you. You also need to be aware of the position of your arms and legs in order to keep propelling forward. Again, these are all aspects of mindfulness – and you have been doing it without even trying!

4. Boosts brain health: The full body workout as well as the rhythmical deep breathing required for swimming is a great way to increase blood flow to the brain. This increase in blood flow helps repair neurons, and your lifted mood helps improve concentration and memory function.

5. Swimming keeps you connected to your community: Swimming is a great way to meet new people, gain new friends and create a new network. This socialising part of swimming greatly improves mental health, especially those who are part of the aging population. Staying connected with friends reduces your risk of dementia and decreases feelings of anxiety and depression.


If you are currently struggling with Mental Health please contact:

Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat
What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.
Shine – 0508 744 633 confidential domestic abuse helpline


Char Jackson (nee Young) is a Triathlete, ICU Nurse and the Social Media Marketer for the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series. To connect with her, follow her on Instagram @charjackson_nz