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Water wellbeing

Whether it's in an indoor pool, outside, or in open water, there are countless health benefits to swimming; physically, socially, and mentally.

From fear to freedom, excitement to the feeling of being weightless - everybody's swimming experience is unique, as are their motivations for getting in the water.

One thing for sure is their shared love of the water! We hear from members of our community about how being in water impacts their wellbeing...

 

Asma, West Reservoir

I learnt to swim as a young adult and I've been swimming ever since - around twenty-five years.

People are so friendly here, they look out for you. You have 50 minutes to swim but you can go at your own pace. It's just really lovely and friendly.

Swimming in this environment helps me feel better, physically and mentally. I just find it really magical when you're in the water. You're in London but if you close your eyes you feel like you could be anywhere.

Rosanna, West Reservoir

Being in open water gives you that freedom, it's lovely to look up at the sky and to be at one with nature, it just feels really liberating. I love it.

Swimming is the most important part of my mental wellbeing. I just feel like it de-stresses me. I feel like it levels me and everything gets put in perspective and I just feel amazing.

It calms me down and energising me at the same time. I'm at one with my thoughts and I just come out with the biggest smile on my face.

 

Sarah, Kensington Leisure Centre

 I started when I was seven years old and I haven’t stopped since, because swimming is something you have to love and if you love swimming, you never stop. 

It's that whole feeling of weightlessness, feeling that you can move in any direction you want - there’s never a bad swim. 

Open water swimming

In recent years there has been a significant rise in open water swimming - the closure of indoor pools over the last year has contributed to this. The annual trend report from Outdoor Swimmer Magazine found that 45% increased the amount they swam outside in 2020, with 43.4% saying that the main reason they did so was for their "health and wellbeing".

West Reservoir is perhaps one of London's best-kept secrets. This hidden gem has built a community of swimmers based on a shared love of water. Whether it's the space, pace, or "fresh" water temperature, we hear from some of our regular swimmers to find out what made them take the plunge and what keeps them coming back.

Joe, West Reservoir

The mental health benefits of being able to swim out here are vast. Just being able to be free and literally wash it away with the open water - it's fantastic.

You can free your mind from just going backwards and forwards and it's a bit like the water equivalent of the first time you get on a bicycle, you have that sense of freedom. You're completely free to just swim out.

You can think about your life objectively. It's like you're a third person thinking about your worries.

Sally, West Reservoir

Swimming outdoors makes me feel free, it's challenging which is one of the things I like about it. You can feel literally out of your depth. I like the freedom of it. You're surrounded by sky and water and not very much else really.

Swimming here allows you to swim in the same space as your mates or people with the same love of the water as you do.

I am so looking forward to getting back in the water and experiencing, I guess what is the essence of me, which is being in the water.

Sarah's story

Paul, West Reservoir

The idea that the water is fresh and it's alive and it makes you feel a bit more alive. It gives you a sense of freedom that you don't get from any other activity. Because of that, you tend to lose yourself in the water and it's incredibly relaxing while you're doing it - once you get used to the cold!

It's like a return to nature in its own kind of way and I think you get to know your own body better by seeing the way it reacts to the environment.

When you get out, you never regret getting in, you feel terrific.

 

The Lido Ladies, Charlton Lido

 Swimming is about mental wellbeing as well as physical, it's a sort of meditation, and it transports you to a different place. Nobody can touch you in a swimming pool, you're completely in your own world, it's amazing. 

It's incredible, I can process all kinds of thoughts, I come out of the pool feeling like I've almost had therapy. 

The Lido Ladies

Tom, West Reservoir

Open water swimming is great for headspace, time to switch off, just you and the water.

No phone, no one can talk to you.

My time swimming is precious.

The Lido Ladies, Charlton Lido

The swimming community is very embracing and very kind. It's a sport that welcomes people of all abilities, all shapes, and sizes. Everybody's in a collective mindset, everyone wants to do the same thing. 

A lot of women get to a point in their life where they start to get body dysmorphia and they're not happy with where they look. So putting on a swimming costume and parading publicly is a very intimidating thing to do. We should be kinder to ourselves and think about how amazing our bodies are, embrace them and treat them to a swim.