85% of UK adults are experiencing stress regularly, according to a study by Forth and finally we are realising the effects that this is having on our bodies and mental health. The question is: what can we do about it? And does swimming actually have the power to reduce stress?Here's the thing: Stress is key for survival.
The 'fight or flight' response heightens your senses so you can avoid dangerous situations - such as jumping away from a moving car. It can even help you to concentrate, helping you hit those last minute deadlines in record time.
So, what's the big deal?
As with everything, too much of anything isn't good for your health.
If the 'fight or flight' response keeps firing, day in, day out, this can take a toll on our health.
Ongoing, chronic stress can cause mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.
What can we do?
Based on the facts, it looks like swimming could make the biggest splash.
It deeply relaxes our body
When we feel stressed, our muscles tense up - the body's way of protecting itself against injury and pain. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain and body aches.
In swimming, we stretch and relax our skeletal muscles, which relieves muscle tension and cures swollen joints.
When you're stressed, the muscles that helps you breathe tense up, which can leave you short of breath. Swimming forces us to focus on deep breathing and concentrate on our movements.
That's because repetitive movements, as well as self-directed thoughts, are familiar in practises like meditation and yoga.
It can generate new brain cells
Want to know the most amazing thing?
The brain damage caused by stress can be reversed.
So-called "hippocampal neurogenesis" - the growth of new brain cells - was proven in animal models.
Amazingly, the study found that swimming promoted the growth of new brain cells which break down during long-term stress.
It releases mood-boosting endorphins
In stressful situations, the stress hormones - adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol - make your heart pump faster.
This is the 'fight or flight' response, which means: raised blood pressure.
Swimming serves us well to help get rid of these excess 'fight or flight' stress hormones.
A hard workout releases endorphins, the natural feel-good hormones that increase positivity and bring about a sense of wellbeing and happiness.
It also releases serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer, and ANP, a stress-reducing hormone.
It helps you sleep better
One of the most common causes of stress is failing to get enough sleep. With ever-more stressful work environments, 39% of UK adults admit they feel too stressed in their day to day lives.
After a tough swim, you'll notice that not only do you feel better during the day, you'll also sleep better at night too. There's more too: it boosts the time spent in 'deep sleep' and the length of time you're getting shut-eye.
I can't emphasize this enough:
Swimming blows all other sports out of the water when it comes to keeping your stress levels in check. In the pool, all your focus is on your breathing and the stroke.
So next time, you're struggling to keep afloat of your work, you know what to do.
What's more, you can earn a free swim when you buy a 10 swim pack. Ker-ching!
Jump in to your closest pool here.
Want to be the first to get the latest fitness articles like this?
Simply sign up here for info-packed emails and centre news.