Tired of the Treadmill? Swimming: An Aerobic Alternative for Stress Relief


Do you want to try something new in your fitness routine? Do you want an environment that can help block out distraction and ground you in the present? Do you want to decompress and feel re-energized, physically and mentally? 

Swimming could be an exercise for you!  Swimming can be a great alternative to land exercises because it is a low-impact activity, and people of all ages and varying levels of physical ability can derive benefits from this type of exercise.  Swimming engages most of the muscles in the body and can help you build muscle strength, endurance, and cardiovascular ability. 

Moreover, exercise is great for your mental health. It decreases cortisol and increases endorphins, which can help reinforce your sense of accomplishment and confidence after a workout.  However, there are certain elements I feel are unique to swimming that can help improve mental health as well.

Picture yourself in a pool. You see the white pool tiles moving below you while kicking with your legs, pulling through the water with your arms, and gliding along. You feel the coolness of the water, and everything is quietyou hear nothing but the soft rush of water moving past your ears. All the while, you turn your head to inhale through your mouth, and then turn back into the water to exhale bubbles. Repeat.   

In my experience with swimming, the repetition of body movement and focus on breathing helps ground me in the present and practice mindfulness.  I can think about the tranquility of the environment around me and take my mind off of current stressors in my life by focusing non-judgmentally on my balance and body movements.  Even better, my electronics and access to the internet are completely cut off in the pool for some much-needed no-screen time.  I am able to dedicate this block of time to myself and exercise. 

The hustle and bustle of a normal gym can be distracting, from comparing yourself to what others are doing, to trying to figure out what machines to use, or even physically feeling sweaty and warm. I appreciate the pool as a calm environment that can facilitate introspection in addition to a good cardio workout.  You can practice mindfulness in the pool, and you can also spend this time reflecting. You might practice gratitude or positive thinking. Try thinking of three things you are thankful for or three things that make you happy, whether it be a good memory from the past week, something fun you are looking forward to on the weekend, or a great new restaurant you tried.

If you sometimes struggle in sticking to your desire to workout, Millstone Pool in the Athletic Complex has scheduled small blocks of open swim hours in the morning, afternoon, and evening, which can help you combat waiting “until you feel like it” to head to the pool.  Open swim hours can be found on the Sumers Recreation website.  Happy swimming!