Nature, outdoors, swimming and health

Swimming outdoors, especially in cold water, being outdoors, and nature are good for you – for your mental and physical health. So say growing numbers of reports, books, articles, studies and organisations. This is a collection of links with brief descriptions (March 2021). And occasional updates and additions subsequently.

Outdoor swimming

This video with Dr Mark Harper talks about the benefits and how your body reacts and adapts to cold water

More detailed research is being done on outdoor swimming and health, including by this team led by Dr Mark Harper in Devon,

Dr Chris van Tullekin, TV Dr,

Fun little film Dr Chris made in context of a campaign to save a swimming pond in Kings Cross. (Watch through to the end for a laugh, though it is making serious points)

Mental Health Swims, begun by Rachel Ashe, ‘I started these swims because struggling with your mental health is enough of a barrier. We all want to feel welcome to join in.

One person’s story on Mind,

Benefits are reported for physical and mental health, for example in  this article about the benefits of swimming, and this one,

Benefits of outdoor swimming mentioned in this page on this website with info for those new to it,

Could cold exposure boost your health and well-being?

Cold Water as a Medical Treatment,

Swimming in the open water to tackle depression, Mind,

Roger Deakin, Waterlog: “I can dive in with a long face and what feels like a terminal case of depression, and come out grinning like an idiot” ( p4)

Short documentary film on swimming and mental health, Joe Minihane, Waterlog, described,

Swim Positive, the mental health benefits of OS,

Swim England have done more detailed research in 2017-2018 on the health and well-being benefits of swimming ,  and in 2019 on the Value of Swimming,, which can be downloaded from their website and found that outdoor swimming gives even more benefits than swimming indoors!

Being in or by water


WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) says, on one of the four proposals of its Blue Recovery project, Wetlands, human health & wellbeing:

“We see first-hand the way that nature improves people’s sense of wellbeing.

Our natural world has an important part to play in preventing and treating ill health and we believe more people should have the opportunity to access these incredible natural environments where they live and work.

We believe wetlands have a unique role to play in supporting people’s physical and mental health”.

See also these interesting discussions of the issues and research on their website:

Surfing and mental health,

Why being near water really does make us happier,

Nature and its healing powers

Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols | Little, Brown and Company

Can nature really heal us? Reviews of Natural Health Service, Losing Eden, Nature Cure, and others

Richard Mabey Nature Cure

Does being in nature aid our mental health? Isabel Hardman interview,

The Natural Health Service: What the Great Outdoors Can Do for Your Mind, Isabel Hardman

Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild by Lucy Jones, ;

National Trust book, Every Day Nature,, author talking on podcast

The value of outdoor exercise generally,

Norfolk Green Care Network – network promoting ‘nature connection’ for people

Loads of useful research into benefits of nature to health,

Forests and wellbeing

Tree hugging (literally)

Iceland recommends hugging trees instead of people | TreeHugger

Can we really feel the benefits of nature through a screen? – BBC News, and the study,

Mental Health in general

This NHS Mood self-assessment page is available to anyone who would like advice about stress, anxiety or depression. It asks you to look at how you have been for the last 2 weeks, and gives links to advice and suggestions on when to seek help

Looking after your mental wellbeing advice