In a recent survey it was revealed that 500,000 women in the UK have stopped swimming, and 50% of mums have stopped taking their child to learn to swim, all because of concerns around body image.
Changing the attitude of a nation
These findings were both shocking and sobering for a number of reasons. I know from my own experience that how we feel in our bodies can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. Swimming for many men and women (myself included), is a weekly exercise which is as much for our mental health as it is for our bodies and our fitness. So, I was saddened to hear that huge numbers of women and their children were being denied access to this incredible activity because of how they were made to feel and think. Mental Health Awareness Week this year runs from 13 to 19 May will focus on the theme of Body Image, which is impacting thousands of us Brits every day.
These days I rarely take a full hour away from my phone. It’s hard to tear myself away from WhatsApp threads, the variety of social media channels that I’m connected to, my inbox, or the endorphin-releasing notification of apps and incoming messages. However, swimming for me is a weekly escape from the noise of every day: an hour dedicated entirely to myself. Sometimes I simply count the lengths and enjoy the rhythmic sound of my breathing and the water rushing past my ears, but on many occasions I spend my time in the water working through a problem I’ve had at work, or thinking through a personal challenge. I find the lack of interruption, the immersion into water, the oxygen pumping around my body is a perfect space for me to problem solve. And I’ve never gotten out of the water feeling less refreshed or less motivated than I did when I got in.
We recently asked over 200 people about this topic, and I wasn’t surprised that more than 90% said swimming benefits their mental health. Many people told us that swimming (indoors and outdoors) helps them to manage the symptoms of depression but many more are also simply enjoying the mental release and space that comes with a workout that can’t be Instagrammed (at least until they create waterproof phones - here’s hoping they don’t).
Recent research has shown what many swimmers have discussed for a long time: that cold water swimming can be used to help improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The hypothesis (which any regular cold water swimmer will testify to) is that the shock of being immersed in cold water releases a stress response – an increase in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Dipping in cold water regularly acclimatises the body to the process so the stress response is more normalised. Over time, it’s believed that one’s stress response in general is more manageable.
After learning the alarming statistic about the half a million women that stopped swimming due to being body conscious, which inevitably impacts both physical and mental wellbeing, I decided to launch a body-positive swimwear brand Deakin and Blue. I love seeing the photos of our customers around the world braving ice, snow and more for their cold-water dips wearing just a swimsuit.
Authored by Rosie Cook, Founder of Deakin and Blue.