Study launched to examine outdoor swimming as nature-based alternative to antidepressants by University of Portsmouth researchers

RESEARCHERS are launching a study to examine the impact of prescribing outdoor swimming for those with mental health difficulties.

Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 8:10 am

University of Portsmouth experts are studying the impact the activity has on depression, and whether it can be used as an antidepressant alternative.

Researchers are looking for people aged 18 and over with mental health difficulties to take part in a randomised control trial (RCT).

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Researchers from the University of Portsmouth are launching a study to analyse if outdoor swimming can be used as an alternative to anti-depressants.

Co-author Dr Heather Massey, from the university’s department of sport, health and exercise science, said: ‘This is a preparatory study to see if we can encourage people to participate in a robust one focusing on an outdoor swimming intervention versus usual care for people living with symptoms of depression.

‘By undertaking this trial, we hope to be able to offer a streamlined study in more locations that more closely analyses the impact of the outdoor swimming course, the cost-benefit of the activity, and importantly if it helps people to recover, whom it works for and why.’

In the RCT, some participants will be given a swimming course, compared to others who will receive their usual care.

The main aim of the study is to analyse those with mild or moderate depression benefit from outdoor swimming, and determine why these changes occur.

It will also measure people’s interest in signing up, and whether they are engaged with the exercise regime by the end of the study.

The study is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), and conducted alongside Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Levels of depression and anxiety in the UK are at an all-time high.

This is exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Demand and waiting lists for talking therapy, provided by the NHS, are growing despite the increase in trained talking therapists.

Dr Massey 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.’

The project is a follow up to a small scale study, which will be published next month.

People interest in taking part in the study can email [email protected] for more information.