Sheffield open water swimming the key to improving mental health during pandemic

People in Sheffield have taken to open water swimming as pools closed their doors during lockdown. 

Sheffield is home to some of the country’s best open water swimming areas, including Manvers Lake, Rivelin Valley and Rother Valley Country Park.

Jean Holt, a member of the Manvers Waterfront Boat Club, said: “It’s weird how addictive it is.

“Most of the people that I’ve chatted to who go outdoor swimming do it for the mental buzz. It really helps the mind in a time when mental health is so important.”

Jean, who swims around four times a week, is also a part of the Sheffield Outdoor Plungers (SOUP), which have more than 7,000 members on Facebook, and is part of the nationwide organisation The Outdoor Swimming Society.

Jean said: “It’s great. I’ve seen some amazing sunrises and wildlife from the water. I come out absolutely buzzing.

“You all go in worried about the cold, but when you get out it’s exhilarating.” 

She highlighted that researchers from Cambridge University have discovered cold water swimming may protect the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia. Other benefits could include increased happiness and better sleep.

She said: “It has become very popular this year, because all the people who enjoyed going to swimming pools took to the open water.

“It covers all ages, all shapes and sizes, all levels of fitness.”

With temperatures starting to rise and more outdoor swim clubs re-opening, Jean said: “If people have got the slightest inclination of giving it a try, they really should.”

However, there are many risks involved too, such as the initial cold water shock, potential sharp objects, and even drowning. 

“My advice would be to absolutely not go on your own. And take it easy. If you can join a club which has supervision and safety cover, that would be the best.”

Manvers Waterfront Boat Club’s website says: “As with many sports open water swimming does have risks. If you are a confident swimmer and regularly lane swim for more than 20 minutes you should be OK to swim. All open sessions have safety cover and safety briefings.”

 

Written by Charlie Baker

Twitter: @charlieb_27

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