The swimmer’s high

If there’s one thing that a summer holiday has a habit of doing, it’s reminding us of a long-lost love of swimming. Just one dip is all it takes, and the endorphins come flooding back in a wave of ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’ It’s an effect that can be credited largely to the ‘swimmers high.’

This rush of feel-good emotions is a force for health and wellbeing if ever there was one, made all the more powerful for that fact that it occurs alongside a ‘relaxation response’ owed to all that stretching, rhythmic breathing and meditative zoning out. And that’s before we even get onto the fresh air and sunshine elements that come into play if you happen to be swimming outdoors!! All these various factors are what make the swimmer’s high unique, with the nearest comparable after-glow being that of yoga! In terms of the knock on health benefits, swimming not only lowers stress naturally, but also reverses the damage said stress might have caused to the brain. It does this through a process called ‘hippocampal neurogenesis’, which basically means the regrowth of new brain cells. As if this isn’t incentive enough, the specific bilateral motions used in swimming can help improve cognitive function by encouraging the entire brain – all lobes and both hemispheres – to work in sync and communicate better with each other. Apparently, it does this by developing the connecting tissue between these two hemispheres. Pretty amazing, no? The long and short is that there is every reason for most people to include some swimming in their regular exercise regimen. Immersing yourself in the habit on holiday is always a good starting point, and after a week or more there’s every chance of a positive momentum having been set that will keep you drawn to the pool long after your return to home soil.

Credit: Heidi Klein / Cliveden House