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The Benefits of Swimming in Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Many addiction rehab centres have a fitness centre, gym, and swimming pool where patients can get plenty of exercise for physical and mental benefits.

The Smarmore Castle indoor pool is open daily for swimming sessions. Our fitness trainer provides aqua-aerobics sessions to help support recovery. 

People who arrive at a residential rehab for detox and therapy are usually in a poor physical state due to years of alcohol and drug abuse, and experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress. 

Exercise gives the body the physical and mental strength to overcome addiction and suppresses drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, helping patients focus on their recovery. 

It is important to incorporate regular exercise into the treatment programme as soon as a person has been through their detoxification. Swimming is one of the forms of exercise that can be used from the moment detoxification is stable, right through to the end of treatment. 

Mentally there are numerous benefits to swimming for those in addiction recovery. Swimming contributes to strengthening willpower and executive functions, and also improves positive mood and decreases anxiety by increasing serotonin, endorphins, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 

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How Does Swimming Improve Our Mood?

Research suggests that swimming influences mood by increasing the number of a particular variety of neurotransmitters in the brain—namely, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These feel-good chemicals reduce anxiety and depression and stress and increase feelings of well-being and positivity. These hormones are triggered by vigorous physical activity including swimming. 

7 Benefits of Swimming:

Swimming can produce a multitude of physical and psychological benefits to complement treatment during rehab: 

  • Swimming is a good low-impact starter exercise for people who are in poor physical shape whether through alcoholism, drug addiction, poor diet or lack of self-care.
  • Swimming improves muscle strength, stamina and lung capacity.
  • Swimming has a meditative quality that is helpful in learning to control anxiety.
  • Swimming reduces cravings for alcohol or drugs by increasing endorphins in the brain.
  • Swimming improves the quality of our sleep and mood.
  • Swimming increases blood flow around the body and to the brain thus increasing energy levels and mental alertness.
  • Swimming and exercise suppress alcohol and drug cravings, helping motivate patients in their recovery.

Swimming and Detox

Simply floating and stretching in water, through aquatherapy, can help stabilize people after detox.

Swimming has some particular advantages because it can be done at a pace suitable for someone who needs time to rebuild physical strength and stamina after detoxification from drugs and alcohol. People in detox or early recovery may be more prone to injury if they quickly take up strenuous activities. Swimming can be done at a moderate pace. The movements are unlikely to cause muscle strains or other injuries compared with higher-impact activities such as running or weight training.

Exercise and swimming increase the production of beneficial chemicals within the brain and body that can significantly alter how you feel. Endorphins, in particular, are a group of hormones in the brain and nervous system that stimulate cells’ opiate receptors, which can cause an analgesic, or painkilling, effect.

Swimming is an excellent option for improving your body’s capacity for high-quality sleep, which can help you feel less stressed out. When you work hard during the day and expend a lot of energy, naturally you’ll probably feel more tired later than if you just sat around all day.

A Johns Hopkins Medicine study found that “people who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night.

Swimming for Depression

Regular swimming, even just half an hour at a time, is known to be effective for lowering incidences of depression and anxiety and improving sleep patterns. 

Anger Management and Swimming

Vigorous physical activity can help reduce stresses that cause you to lose control and become angry. Swimming is the ideal exercise to complement anger management therapy because the relaxing nature of water and repetitive strokes calm the mind and also the ability to turn up the pace and expel stress through vigorous lengths.

Exercise and Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Swimming as part of a residential rehab programme can contribute to the physical strength and mental mindfulness patients need to overcome addiction. 

Working Towards Goals

Working towards being a better swimmer – or achieving small goals as a recreational activity – mirrors substance dependency treatment in a sense. Both require focus, determination, and practice. Sometimes it is hard, and sometimes you might want to give up. Holding fast to your goals and enlisting the help of those around you is extraordinarily useful for getting through challenges.

Evidence to Back Up the Use of Pool Exercise as a Tool to Complement Therapy

The mental health benefits of swimming and vigorous exercise have long been documented. 

A survey conducted by Speedo in 2021 of nearly 1,200 swimmers aged 16 to 45 from across the globe researched how swimmers felt about their sport. According to the results of the survey:

  • 74% of respondents said swimming helps release stress and tension.
  • 68% of respondents said being in the water helps them with well-being and to feel good about themselves.
  • 70% of respondents said they feel mentally refreshed after swimming.

Research has shown the relationship between swimming, an aerobic activity, and mood. One hundred college students voluntarily enrolled in swimming classes, Results confirmed that swimmers reported significantly less tension, depression, anger, confusion, and more energy after exercising than before. The results were found to have implications, similar to those with running, for use in psychotherapy. 1

Swimming was also proven to improve cognitive function, lower mood disorders, and memory impairments, and increase serotonin production in a phase I study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. 2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7248435/

After leaving rehab

Continuing on with a healthy lifestyle after addiction rehab is a great thing to do. At your local fitness centre, there are always chances to make new friends dedicated to a healthy lifestyle. At home, the pool can provide a place for fun social gatherings with supportive friends and family, as well as for fitness and stress-relieving activities.

At Smarmore we offer advanced addiction treatment

Swimming as part of our rehab fitness programme

At Smarmore Castle, the swimming pool is open to patients daily for open swimming. We offer aqua-therapy with a trained fitness instructor for all patients so that they can begin building new healthy habits that help support their recovery. 

22 Metre Swimming Pool

Our large, indoor, heated swimming pool is ideal for aqua-aerobics and swimming. Our fitness instructor provides a range of activities such as aqua-aerobics and aqua-yoga. The feeling of weightlessness when exercising in water has been found to have a calming effect, minimising stress and tension.

References:

  1. Mood alteration with swimming–swimmers really do “feel better”. B G Berger, D R Owen Psychosom Med. 1983 Oct;45(5):425-33. doi: 10.1097/00006842-198310000-00006.
  2. J Exerc Rehabil. 2020 Apr; 16(2): 132–140, Published online 2020 Apr 28. doi: 10.12965/jer.2040216.108, PMCID: PMC7248435, PMID: 32509697

Last updated & clinically assessed 5 November, 2022