Mental Health and Wellbeing evidence for cold water swimming
PHE ePoster Library. Sansom L. 09/12/19; 274336; 144
Dr. Lisa Sansom
Dr. Lisa Sansom
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Abstract Background
A quarter of adults will have a mental health illness in their lifetime. Exercise is established as beneficial in the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety. Swimming research reports of benefits in mental health and wellbeing are mainly pool focused. Personal accounts of cold water swimming benefits on mental health and wellbeing are emerging, with the theory behind these benefits being linked to the physiological responses to cold water exposure.We conducted a literature review to establish the relationship between cold water swimming and mental health and wellbeing.
We performed a systematic search on the following databases; PsycINFO, CINAHL, PubMed, Medline, EMBASE, AMED, HMIC. We identified all full text, English articles from any time point.Search criteria included swimming and derivatives of cold water. All articles were evaluated for mental health and wellbeing.
Of the 1694 articles retrieved, 1689 (99.7%) were excluded as they did not fulfil the inclusion criteria. Five studies were identified (3 qualitative studies, 1 mixed method, 1 quantitative study). The qualitative studies strongly supported the use of cold water swimming as a therapeutic approach to manage mental health and general wellbeing.The two quantitative studies showed improvement in wellbeing and mental health although not universally.Limitations included small study size, heterogenous studies and selection bias.
Despite a paucity of data, there are signals to suggest positive benefits of cold water swimming on mental health and wellbeing. Well-designed studies are required to explore the relationship with mental health and wellbeing further. External funding details n/a
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