What Swimming Can Teach Us About Health at Any Age

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

© GLOW IMAGES Model used for illustrative purposes

Swimming is one of the favorite past times for those who live in Southern California. My colleague from Missouri, Steve Drake, writes about the benefits he gets from swimming, and the connection between our thinking and health. Steve recently published an article in the Southeast Missourian that I thought my readers would enjoy.

Go ahead, take the plunge and swim your way to health and overall well-being. Olympians, M.D.s, fitness trainers and avid swimmers confirm that swimming is not only good for your body, but can also improve emotional and spiritual well-being as you stroke through the water.

Swimming provides me with a restorative and liberating feeling. Ever since childhood, I have been drawn to the water like a moth to a flame. I enjoy the discipline of overcoming limitations, both physical and mental, while swimming laps or even doing an open water swim. Author Lynn Sherr elevates swimming to a spiritual experience when she says, “[swimming’s] also an inward journey, a time of quiet contemplation…I find myself at peace, able — and eager — to flex my mind, imagine new possibilities, to work things out.”

The idea that swimming is good for you mentally as well as physically is really old news. Author David Thomas, in his book Swimming: Steps to Success quotes William Wilson who in 1883 wrote, “The experienced swimmer, when in the water, may be classed among the happiest of mortals in the happiest of moods, and in the most complete enjoyment of the happiest of exercises.” It would be fair to ask whether it is actually the physical act of swimming or the mental atmosphere that it creates – that quiet cocoon under the water which allows time for deep thinking or prayer — that produces this kind of happiness and sense of well being.

Here is the link to the rest of Steve’s article in the Southeast Missourian

About the author

Guest We are pleased to present Notes from the Field authors, who are assistant committees and church members in the Southern California region; and Notes from The Mother Church authors, who are Committees from the United States and around the world, as well as the Federal Committee on Publication office.


  1. says

    This whole article is worthy of a read. I like the breast stroke. Always have. Pull, kick…glide. Breathe with the next pull. Pull, kick…glide. Breathe with the next pull. It requires and develops a special sense of rhythm. This reminds me of steady ongoing prayer that can guide and glide me through a variety of events each day, strengthening my spiritual sense of life and supporting health.

  2. Wendy Rose says

    Thank you, Steve, for this lovely essay…just reading it put me in “the happiest of moods.” I too love swimming but need to work on the discipline part. Being in the “cocoon” is precisely the way I feel too – a communion time with God, Life. Once I asked a friend what she thought about while swimming laps. She answered “the A, B, Cs” What she meant by this is A for absolute, All-in-all, abundance, etc.; B for beautiful, being, brightness, etc.; C for calm, clear, Christlike, Creator, etc. So when we began to swim laps side by side in separate lanes, I tried out her mental game. When I looked up to see her stepping out of the pool, I saw that I had been swimming laps – all crawl strokes – for half an hour uninterrupted by suggestions of breathlessness, fatigue, or strain. Rather I felt refreshed and broke some physical barriers. It did indeed become to me, just as you quoted, “a most complete enjoyment of the happiest of exercises” because of the spiritual invigoration that supported the swimming. Guess I better suit up and go swimming now! Thanks again!

  3. Pamela says

    I too love swimming and swim laps three to four times a week. I love how I feel when in the water. It is invigorating and relaxing at the same time. It is a quiet time for me away from my office and out in the open. I pray and sing while swimming, mentally of course. I feel a certain closeness to God and to nature. And it is to me also one of the happiest of exercises. Thanks Steve.

  4. Anne Hughes says

    Swimming is my very favorite activity and has been since I was a child. Watching the joy of children and grandchildren as they have learned is an inspiration. One granddaughter, not even two, watched Grammy (me) dunk my head in the water and swim, and so she would do it, standing on a step in the shallow end, and she always came up smiling. By now she is quite a swimmer, and she can think of myriad games in the water to keep her Grammy out of mischief! It represents freedom and joy and buoyancy, all great thought qualities. As others have observed, swimming gives some time for reflection when swimming laps, and reflection brings balance to situations we are facing. Great post!

  5. Hilary says

    Love this article and agree with Wendy that the full article is worth reading! I am not a swimmer but a walker but I totally agree that it helps to take time each day alone to focus thought on God’s goodness, and remind ourselves that it does have an impact on the universe in general and on our daily lives in particular. It helps one to see through all the distractions of the day that can bring confusion – to instead glimpse the clarity of one infinite God, good caring for humanity. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Debbie says

    I love to both walk and swim. Both activities give me a time to “go into the closet” as Jesus said and have some quiet “prayer time’.