This blog post is painful for me to write because I have been an avid swimmer since the age of 5, when I took the water wings off and made it to the other side of the pool on my own. As I wrote in my post 10 Things I Do to Beat Depression Every Day, swimming has been one of my most powerful weapons against the ever-suffocating energy of depression. Exercise, in general, is one of the best ways you can naturally boost your mood. In a study led by James A. Blumenthal, Ph.D., a professor of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C. it was reported that three sessions of vigorous exercise were approximately as effective as daily doses of Zoloft, when the treatment effects were measured after four months. Swimming is particularly effective as a mood stabilizer because of the combination of stroke mechanics, breathing, and repetitiveness. It’s a whole-body meditation in motion.
However, for those of us with unhealthy guts—with bacteria overgrowth or imbalances in our microbiome—spending an hour or more in a chlorinated pool a few times a week is one of the worst things we can do for our mental health.