Swimming is a very social sport, whether you swim with family and friends, join a class or just become a regular at the local pool – increasing your social contact will lift your spirits, improve your mood and your mental health.
Increasing your physical wellbeing has a positive effect on your mental wellbeing relaxing the body and mind, reducing depression, anxiety and stress – all common issues that become more prevalent with age.
If you don’t want to swim up and down the pool, think about:
Aqua aerobics brings all the benefits of swimming with the added fun of being part of a class with exercise to music.
In an aqua aerobics class you may do some water walking, aqua jogging, stretches, arm curls, calf raises, side leg lifts and exercises using buoyancy aids such as foam floats.
Water provides natural resistance, helping build lean muscle mass and cardio-aerobics. If joint pain or arthritis prevents you from taking place in studio classes, then aqua aerobics could help you build and maintain your fitness levels. The warm water will help release tension and loosen joints and the exercise will release positive endorphins that counteract stress hormones. With aqua aerobics you’ll improve your co-ordination and develop new friendships.
With aqua aerobics you don’t need to be a good swimmer. The classes are done in time to music and are designed to tone the whole body.
If you visit the Better website, you’ll find a class finder for aerobics as well as a pool finder.
Water polo is a game played in the pool, with goals at each end. The winner is the team that scores the most goals by getting the ball between the posts. Players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool and have to tread water the whole time, using a special technique – so you have to be confident treading water.
Players move the ball by throwing it to a teammate or swimming while pushing the ball in front of them. They can only hold the ball with one hand, other than the goalkeeper who uses both hands.
In senior teams, there are 13 players – each team has 7 in the water at once - six outfield players and one goalkeeper. The match is divided into four quarters, time depending on the age of the participants.
You’re never too old to start playing water polo. Masters water polo is for the over 30s and teams in the 50+ age group play six-minute rather than seven-minute quarters. You do need to be a confident swimmer though and have a considerable amount of stamina - making it perfect for mature people who have maintained their fitness and want to stay fit.
There are water polo clubs all around the country. Take a look at the swimming organisation’s website for more details and information on clubs.
Wild swimming is simply swimming or taking a dip in any natural waterway. It is a sport that began in Ancient Egypt and became popular in Britain during Queen Victoria’s reign. Wild swimming can take place in lakes, rivers or the sea and during the Covid pandemic, when swimming pools were closed, it experienced a massive rise in popularity. It can be done in any weather, any season and can involve long swims or short dips. You can swim without any special equipment but if you swim in cold conditions, you might want a wet suit.
Judith at one of her favourite wild swimming spots.
Judith, who is in her 60s and lives in Amble, Northumberland, is a keen wild swimmer as she explains:
“Three years ago, a friend posted on Facebook that she regularly swam in the North Sea near my home. She was so enthusiastic! One day, walking on the beach, I saw her in the water and she was beaming – and I thought ‘I want to try that.’
“Now, three years later, I regularly swim in the sea and in rivers or lakes all year round. I started off with quick dips but now I swim too – although not long distances. The experience always starts with excitement, occasionally tinged with nervousness. When I feel a bit down, I still go, thinking of the benefits. The water is cold but by staying relaxed, keeping moving and breathing slowly, I warm up swiftly and feel such a sense of peace, joy and pride in myself.”
“I feel very aware of nature surrounding me. It’s so great to feel the sun on your face but also lovely to see raindrops splashing on the water at eye-level. I see sea birds on the water, geese flying above and waves splashing over the pier.”
“I am usually in the water for about 15 to 20 minutes and when I come out, I feel relaxed, exhilarated, tingly and really happy – such a sense of achievement. This feeling lasts all day and fills me with energy. It’s a perfect start to the day or great as a mood lifter at any other time.”
“I mostly swim in a beautiful, sheltered bay with a group of friends I have met through swimming. We enjoy a hot chocolate and chat afterwards. I occasionally swim alone when I know the place is safe and there are people close by. The effects on my health are the extra energy, the calming of my mind, the feeling as well being and, of course, the normal benefits of swimming.”
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