Study launched into outdoor swimming as alternative to antidepressants

Ecotherapy – therapeutic intervention through nature – is known to boost people’s mood.

25 July 2022

The benefits of prescribing outdoor swimming for people with depression as an alternative to medication is being examined in a new study.

Experts at the University of Portsmouth are working with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to look at the use of ecotherapy – therapeutic intervention through nature – which is known to boost people’s mood.

Volunteers are being sought for the trial looking at the impact of immersion in cold water, which has been shown to reduce stress levels.

Some participants will be given a swimming course and then be compared to a control group who are receiving their usual care.

Outdoor swimming
Parliament Hill Lido in London (Lewis Whyld/PA)

A university spokesman said: “The study, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), will provide preliminary support for using outdoor swimming as an alternative to antidepressants or talking therapies.”

Co-author Dr Heather Massey, from the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Science, said: “In this new study we are looking at outdoor swimming as part of social prescribing, which looks to support members of the community who are self-referred or referred by a number of professional organisations to community activities that will support them.

“It’s a step up in terms of scientific rigour.”

Swimming lessons will take place at Parliament Hill in London, Lenches Lake in Worcestershire, and Saunton in north Devon.

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