Exercise and mental health experts have revealed the key benefits behind swimming in the sea, which include reduced stress, improved mental health and better long-term lung health.
The Vitamin Sea project, created by Island Cottage Holidays, also asked experts for their top tips for staying safe when taking up open water swimming, and looked at key metrics across the UK’s swim-friendly beaches to see where’s best for those looking to take a dip.
According to David Sautter, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, the top three physical and mental benefits of open water exercise are:
- Improved cardiovascular health through giving our heart and lungs and workout.
- The release of feel-good dopamine and serotonin for a mood-boosting effect.
- Relaxed muscles due to reduced joint stress when underwater, opposed to on land.
These improvements on mental and physical health can’t be understated – particularly given that the latest Sport England Active Lives survey revealed pandemic pool closures and reduced capacities saw 2.2 million people unable to participate in their usual routine.
For Sarah Rose De Vore, Wellness Travel Coach, swimming in the sea has clear advantages due to increased salt levels and low-resistance waves. Her top benefits include:
- Increased iodine levels from swimming in salty water which is important for healthy thyroid function and immunity.
- Loosened tense muscles, as soaking in salt water alleviates achy joints and eases pain by reducing inflammation.
- Improved long-term lung health and eased sinus pressure through breathing in salty air.
- Maintaining long-term lung health has been a key concern over the last year with an increased focus on respiratory diseases, so incorporating sea swimming and spending time by the ocean is highly recommended from a wellness perspective.
And it’s not just physical benefits that can make a real difference to our drops in our wellbeing over the last year – Charted Psychologist Dr Gregory Warwick highlights the following mental health benefits:
- Reduced anxiety and depression due to slower heart rate and reduced stress hormone production.
- Reduces the risk of relapse with pre-existing mental health difficulties through long-term and regular cardiovascular exercise.
- Before looking to take up sea swimming, there are some key considerations which PT David Sautter highlights, saying: “Always check weather reports and ocean conditions before attempting an open water swim, especially if you’ve never done it before.
“Breathing in open water is going to require some getting used to. You’ll need to try to experiment with breathing on both sides of the body instead of the one side you’re accustomed to.
Your body might require some getting used to water temperature so I’d recommend starting out with a wetsuit, which will dramatically cut down on the cold.”
He also recommends that Brits build up their endurance in a pool before tackling an open water swim, and start with basic drills such as swimming to a specific target in the ocean, to ensure they’re not pushing themselves beyond their limits.
Shannon Keary, Digital PR Manager at Island Cottage Holidays, weighs in on the study: “With so many people’s regular exercise routines being disrupted over the last year, it’s really encouraging to see that there are easily-accessible alternatives – such as open water swimming – that can reap positive mental and physical benefits.
“With staycations expected to see another increase this year amidst travel restrictions, now is a great time for people to take up sea swimming when staying by the beach – as long as they make sure to check weather reports and sea conditions to ensure they’re staying safe.”
The study also pinpointed three of the top beaches in the North and South for sea swimming, as identified by National Geographic, and compiled data on average temperatures and water quality, to help Brits decide where’s worth taking the plunge.
To see the full results of the Vitamin Sea study, head over to Island Cottages website: