Many of you will have seen the new Swim England #loveswimming advert. This 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.
And a new research study for Swim England and the Health commission also cites that swimming has significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety or depression for 1.4 million adults in Britain. But what about the effects on our children?
We here at Swimming Rocks decided to investigate this.
Today’s challenges for our children
Online pressure, school and social circles are having a significant psychological impact on today’s children and teenagers. 7+exams, entrance assessments…GCSE’s…these all carry high stress levels and can have a lasting impact on the development of impressionable minds.
At Swimming Rocks, we are encouraged by the current awareness in relation to mental health awareness, but we have also been shocked by some of the statistics that we have found;
The mental health charity Mind estimates that every year, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem.
And mentalhealth.org.uk says “We take a life-course approach to mental health because good mental health begins in infancy”. They also told us some interesting facts in relation to children and mental health.
- 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year.
- 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
- 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
So can swimming help combat this problem?
Absolutely! And the benefits shouldn’t be underestimated either.
As a form of exercise, swimming is hard to beat, but there are other significant benefits too;
Stress Relief: Swimming is already prescribed by the NHS to combat mental health and anxiety. The endorphins that are released during any exercise are known to combat the stress hormones that are released by the body and there has been recent evidence to suggest that cold water swimming can increase these even more so.
Heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate are all responses to stress and anxiety, but the rhythmic actions of swimming and the environment in which they learn to swim can all have a positive counter effect on both anxiety and behaviour.
Brain Development: A scientific study carried out by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research found that children who learn to swim earlier reach major cognitive developmental milestones including speech, literacy, numeracy and visual motor skills much earlier than their peers and non-swimmers.
A boost in blood flow can help improve memory, mood, clarity, and focus and can help children to sleep better, which every parent knows can help with daily stress and behaviour!
Physical development: Being a low impact, full body exercise means that swimming does some amazing things for a child’s physical development.
In babies and toddlers, swimming helps in the early development of fine and gross motor skills. With babies and children, it improves cardiovascular function, builds strong muscles, increases lung capacity, improves weight management and overall fitness. We could go on and on!
The same Griffiths Institute study also cited that “Children who learn to swim by the age of five gain significant developmental advantages compared with children who don’t start the activity at a young age”
So, in today’s fast paced world, getting children into the pool and learning to swim can take them away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. But what’s more, it gives them the skills they need to enjoy a healthy, anxiety reducing, physical activity for the rest of their lives.
Claire Harrison is the owner of Swimming Rocks swimming schools offering lessons to babies, children and adults across London.