• Karen Charles

Shake off the Pandemic Blues by Getting Back into the Water

How water-based exercise helps improve your mental health


The connection between mental and physical health has been recognised for a long time. It’s a vicious circle: the debilitating effect of bad physical health can increase the likelihood of poor mental health. Mental ill health can sometimes trigger sedentary behaviour, which in turn can put you at risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which can trigger depression and anxiety. And so on and so on….


There are an alarming number of people living with mental ill health right now. According to mentalhealth.org.uk more than 15 million people – that’s 30% of the UK population – are currently living with one or more long-term physical conditions, and more than 4 million of these also suffer from a mental health problem.


2020 – A year like no other


The state of mental health in the UK would be a challenge even under normal circumstances. But of course the year 2020 is proving to be the unwelcome exception. We have all been adversely affected by Covid-19 in one way or another, whether that’s from lockdowns, self-isolation, the changing employment situation or home-schooling. What toll is it taking on our mental wellbeing?


Many online column inches have already been taken up on this subject but there is emerging evidence, according to mentalhealth.org.uk, that although more people believe they are coping better since national restrictions started easing at the end of June, there are still millions of people across the UK who are struggling with the worry of the pandemic. We are still witnessing an increased exposure to the things that make us stressed: news, social media, confusing and contradictory advice, and having friends or family members who have been affected.


This coupled with the loss of normal coping mechanisms – not being able to be with loved ones or reduced access to mental health facilities - and the lack of opportunity to get back to a regular exercise regime may mean that we’re heading for a pandemic of a different kind: an attack on our psychological wellbeing.


The case for exercising in water to improve your state of mind



Any form of exercise releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel good. Regular exercise can boost our self esteem and give us confidence, which in turn boosts our mental wellbeing. Doing something – anything – physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. It also gives our brains something to think about other than whatever is making us anxious.


Indoor swimming pools around the UK began to re-open in early August which is good news for anyone who doesn’t like land-based exercise like jogging or going to the gym. If the last few months have forced you to be relatively inactive, then a water-based exercise is the ideal workout regardless of your current physical fitness levels or how sedentary you’ve been lately.


Warm water can feel very comforting and the exercise will get blood flowing to your muscles and tendons. When you're in the water your joints are not being stressed. Also, water offers resistance, which helps your muscles get stronger.


For the non-swimmers among you there’s more good news – you don’t need to know how to swim to get the benefits from exercising in water!


Aqua aerobics: Resistance training without the leggings!


If you like a low-impact workout while exercising to music, then aqua aerobics is ideal for you. Perfect for all ages and abilities, you follow along with a series of aerobic movements designed to improve the efficiency of your body's cardiovascular system in absorbing and transporting oxygen around your body. The added resistance provided by the water means it’s much easier on your joints. And if it’s weight loss you’re after, then a 30-minute pool workout burns approximately 300 calories. What’s not to love?



AquaStretch: Targeted therapy for your body and mind


I’m a qualified AquaStretch practitioner and it’s a proven one-on-one, hands-on, holistic, myofascial release technique that uses buoyancy and weighted resistance to target tight and painful joints and muscles. AquaStretch is designed to restore your flexibility by focusing on the fascia: the thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every muscle in place. I usually work with people in chronic pain or recovering from long term injury, but AquaStretch is also perfect for anyone returning to a regular exercise regime who needs to limber up. Plus the opportunity to relax in the water while I work with you not only eases your muscles, it’s also the perfect mood-booster. Many of my clients emerge from the water at the end of an AquaStretch session feeling nicely physically loose and mentally calm.


Whether it’s swimming laps or bouncing around to funky music, being in water is one of the most therapeutic forms of exercise you can get. It releases endorphins, reduces stress and boosts your brain health. It’s the ideal way to take time out, calm your mind and provide some much-needed perspective on the world.


To find out more about my aqua aerobics classes or learn more about booking an AquaStretch session with me, give me a call.

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