When you’re super stressed or anxious, working out is probably the last thing you want to do. But what if we told you that going for a swim when you’re feeling overwhelmed can actually help you feel better? 

Yep, that’s right! Even a short swim can help combat symptoms of stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling calmer and ready to take on the rest of your day. Let’s take a look at what causes anxiety and stress, symptoms to look out for, and how to incorporate swimming into your self care routine to boost your mental health.

What Causes Anxiety & Stress?

Everyone gets anxious or stressed at some point or another. The cause of these feelings can vary:

  • Caffeine, Drugs and/or Alcohol: Consuming these substances can increase anxiety in some people.
  • Medications or Supplements: Some medications may increase symptoms of anxiety. Check with your doctor before starting any new medications or supplements!
  • Underlying Health Issues: People with certain medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease, may experience increased stress and anxiety.
  • Life: Sometimes, life feels overwhelming for a variety of reasons:
    • Time: So much to do, so little time
    • Money: Need to pay the bills, maintain a lifestyle
    • Social Pressure: Gossip, worrying about what others think 
    • Physical: Body discomfort, aches, pain
  • Mental Health Diagnoses: While some people experience individual bouts of stress or anxiety, others may have diagnosed anxiety disorders, depression or other mental health challenges that can impact their lives long-term. If you’re struggling, reach out to a licensed therapist or counselor for guidance and appropriate treatment.

Related: How Alcohol Impacts Swimming Performance

When you’re anxious or stressed, you may experience a wide range of symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restless
  • Increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels
  • Weight gain

10 Ways Swimming Reduces Stress & Anxiety

In general, moving your body can help combat anxiety and stress. But swimming takes it to a whole new level! Let’s dive into the mental and physical benefits of spending time in the water. 

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Swim

  1. Releases Endorphins: Endorphins are hormones that are released when your body feels pain or stress. They help to increase positivity and bring about a sense of wellbeing and happiness. If you’ve ever experienced a runner’s high, you were feeling these endorphins! The same thing happens when you swim.
  2. Reduces Physical Stress: Swimming is one of the best low impact forms of exercise. Even a short dip in the water can take stress off your joints and make you feel better. 
  3. Escape From the World: When you swim, you have to disconnect from your phone and from the world, which can be a welcome break from any social stress or anxiety you may be experiencing.
  4. It’s Affordable: At its core, swimming is a pretty affordable fitness activity, which can help relieve financial stress. Most cities offer affordable pool access, and if you have a swimsuit you’re good to go!
  5. Choose Your Level of Commitment: You can be as engaged as you want when you swim…swim laps mindlessly or focus on your stroke technique, breathing, etc. Both have their benefits!
  6. Meditative Stroke: Many people find the repetitive motion of strokes and swimming back and forth very meditative.
  7. Breath Training: Swimming encourages a rhythmic, consistent breath, which can help calm anxiety.
  8. Improves Sleep: Swimming tires out your body and calms the mind, which can help you sleep better. A good night’s sleep allows your brain to rest and sets you up for a positive day.
  9. Builds Confidence: After completing a workout, you’ll feel accomplished and over time, you’ll notice improved self esteem and confidence both on and off the pool deck.
  10. All You Need is a Quick Swim: You don’t have to swim a lot to get these benefits. 5-10 minutes is perfect! If you’re busy, making time for a short dip a few times a week is more manageable than trying to fit in a long workout. Start small!

Pro Tips to Reduce Stress & Anxiety With Swimming

Sometimes, the thought of adding another item to your to-do list seems overwhelming. Try these tips to find joy in your swimming routine and stick to your new habit!

  • Start a Plan: Don’t stress about writing your own swim workouts. Instead, start a Training Plan in the MySwimPro app that’s designed for your swimming goals, speed and distance preferences. 
  • Schedule Your Swims: Put your swims on your calendar! Block out this time for yourself. For extra accountability, swim with a buddy.
  • Make a Daily Habit: If it’s possible for you, try to make daily movement a non-negotiable. You don’t have to swim every day, but set aside time each day to move your body in ways that you enjoy.
  • Get Organized: Set out your swim gear the night before your workout so everything is ready before you swim. All you have to do is grab your bag and go!

Try This Meditative Swim Workout

Try this 2,500-meter swim workout for a relaxing, meditative swim that can help calm your mind and relieve anxiety. For more personalized swim workouts like this one, plus Training Plans, Technique Videos and more, download the MySwimPro app!

  • Distance: 2,500 yards/meters
  • Duration: 45-60 minutes


  • 1 x 500 Freestyle @ 8:40 Easy
  • 6 x 50 Backstroke @ 1:00 Moderate

Main Set (2x)

  • 1 x 50 Free @ :55 Easy
  • 1 x 100 Free @ 1:40 Moderate
  • 1 x 150 Free @ 2:20 Endurance
  • 1 x 200 Free @ 2:50 Threshold
  • 1 x 150 Free @ 2:20 Endurance
  • 1 x 100 Free @ 1:40 Moderate
  • 1 x 50 Free @ :55 Easy

Cool Down

  • 1 x 100 Free @ 1:40 Easy, Silent Swimming 

Has swimming helped you overcome mental health challenges? Share your experience in the comments! 

Start your swimming journey today with the MySwimPro app! Try a personalized workout or start a Training Plan, commit to a routine and experience the benefits for yourself!



  1. Swimming saved me from giving up on life. In 2020 my heart was shattered, then in Feb ‘22 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before cancer, heartbroken, I cried for a year during workouts, tasting chlorine & tears on my face. Only when I swam did I feel a reason to live. Then cancer crushed my mental health-again. I kept my swim bag packed & ready for the day I could get in water again. I’m healthy now. Nothing, and I really mean this, nothing relieves my stress like swimming. My dream is to be part of a coached team with other swimmers over age 60. I really want to compete. I’d even relocate to be on a team.

    • I hope you’re still doing well! What an inspiring story!
      Also, many local Y’s have competitive swim teams for all ages. I wish you well!

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