Unlocking the secret to ‘better you’ with swimming

As the speedometer of life continues to roar ahead, the yearning for an ‘escape hatch’ to whisk us away from the pressures of Boardroom and home life becomes even more important for our mental, emotional and intellectual health.

Stress can impact your health, happiness, and mood, with serious side effects, like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression.

A flurry of fad solutions to alleviating stress and offering health benefits have transformed the wellness industry in the last 10 years, with tried-and-true methods making way for trendy eating programmes, digital therapists and even unplugged retreats in exotic locations.

I’m all for experimentation, but I genuinely feel that now’s the time to go back to what we know works.

The pool and ocean have always been my own personal way to seek solitude, take some precious time for reflection and enjoy what can only be described as almost meditative relaxation, in particular during long training sessions in preparation for a swim event.

It might seem counterintuitive, but even the most rigorous workouts can be relaxing. That’s because exercise releases endorphins. These are feel-good neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of pleasure and the negation of pain. And the rush of endorphins doesn’t stop as soon as your workout is over.

The American Council on Exercise states that one exercise session—even one as short as 20 minutes—can generate up to two hours of relaxation response that improves your mood and leaves you feeling calm.

While exercise-induced endorphins will do wonders for your stress levels, getting in the water for your workout may have its own special brand of mood-boosting benefits. Research internationally has shown that being submerged in water dulls the amount of sensory information that bombards your body, helping to bring on feelings of calm, according to a study published in Pain Research & Management.

Exercising to reduce work-related stress can certainly be helpful at the office, with multiple health organisations urging that exercise is vital for maintaining mental fitness. It’s also very effective at easing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. So, if stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate at work, exercise is there to pick you back up.

There’s not much I find more rewarding than when a swimmer who has just taken part in one of our events approaches me and says, wholeheartedly, that swimming has changed their life and enhanced their performance in the workplace as well as their connection to family and friends. It happens quite often. And I’m always blown away.

— Scott Rice, Founder and Event Director, Banana Boat New Zealand Ocean Swim Series