Swimming in nature: A scoping review of the mental health and wellbeing benefits of open water swimming

K. Overbury, B. W. Conroy, E. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (SciVal)
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Abstract

Purpose: Open water swimming (also known as outdoor or wild swimming) is a popular blue activity which has become of recent interest in the mental health sphere. Moreover, it is an accessible and low-cost activity, requiring little to no specialist equipment other than access to an appropriate blue space. Subsequently, it could be an effective and accessible intervention that supports mental health and wellbeing worldwide. This scoping review aims to summarise the open water swimming literature. 

Principal methods and results: A comprehensive search, extraction and charting of relevant literature was undertaken, identifying 14 studies exploring the mental health and wellbeing benefits of open water swimming. The findings were synthesised and summarised for both quantitative and qualitative literature, addressing all scoping review aims, whilst also assessing the quality of the literature. 

Major conclusions: Open water swimming may lead to improvements in mood and wellbeing, reductions in mental distress symptomatology, and was experienced as a positive, enriching process for many. Blue spaces involve embodiment, mindful presence, community and much more, offering for some a therapeutic accretion which sustains mental health and wellbeing across a lifetime. More robust evidence is needed before open water swimming may become a viable mental health resource.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102073
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Volume90
Early online date3 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the University of Bath for the opportunity to take on this project, and to all the researchers and swimmers who have contributed to the existing evidence base on open water swimming for mental health and wellbeing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

Keywords

  • Mental health
  • Nature connectedness
  • Open water swimming
  • Outdoor swimming
  • Wellbeing
  • Wild swimming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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