When the country went into lockdown back in March 2020, so did our local swimming pools and as a result many more people took to wild swimming outdoors. According to the Outdoor Swimming Society the numbers taking part in the activity grew by around 1.5 to three times in 2020.
Whilst many people are lucky to live close to the coast or near rivers and lakes, it’s not so easy to find an open water spot in the centre of Birmingham.
Unless of course you’re a member of Edgbaston Priory Club which boasts a stunning outdoor swimming pool in a glorious setting. Open in all weathers for 12 months of the year, members can be seen swimming outdoors from the height of summer to the depth of winter.
Not surprisingly, the club has seen a significant increase in outdoor pool usage over the past 12 months as members have enjoyed the advantage of swimming safely outdoors.
Outdoor swimming has proven to be a lifeline for many people during the pandemic with two-thirds of outdoor swimmers saying the activity has been essential to maintaining their mental well-being.*
The benefits on our physical health of swimming are well-recognised. Three thirty minute swims a week, together with a healthy diet, is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy.
Swimming uses all the muscles in the body so it’s a brilliant total body workout. A great form of cardiovascular exercise, swimming helps guard against heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. It’s especially good for those recovering from long-term injury as the water supports up to 90% of the body’s weight – a great way to stay active.
However, an increasing number of studies are also showing the positive effects of outdoor swimming on our mental well-being.
When you’re swimming outdoors you certainly have no choice but to be in the moment. All the deadlines and anxieties float away as you focus on the water and your swimming stroke. Attention is paid to your breathing, the feeling of water on your skin and the natural world around you. It all helps to disconnect us from the stress of our busy lives.
Swimming outdoors is also shown to boost energy levels whilst at the same time stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which promotes feelings of relaxation and helps deliver a better night’s sleep.
In 2013, Marine biologist Dr Wallace J Nichols, author of the bestselling book, Blue Mind, explored how being near, on or in water can reduce stress levels, make you happier, more creative and more connected.
This Blue Mind theory, now an emerging form of mindfulness, has been backed up by work undertaken by neuroscientists. It seems that water can ignite a dopamine hit, creating a positive feeling every time we’re in or around water.
As restrictions are lifted further across the summer months, Edgbaston Priory Club is looking forward to welcoming members back to not only swim but to also once again enjoy the company of friends on the pool terrace with a chilled glass of white wine – summer nights beckon!
To book a tour of Edgbaston Priory Club call 0121 440 2492 or complete an online enquiry form.
*Outdoor Swimmer magazine’s Trends in Outdoor Swimming 2021
An abridged version of this article was first published in Birmingham Living in April 2021