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|Biological and Environmental Sciences Journal Articles
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|Self-reported benefits and risks of open water swimming to health, wellbeing and the environment: Cross-sectional evidence from a survey of Scottish swimmers
|Oliver, David M.
McDougall, Craig W.
Quilliam, Richard S.
|Oliver DM, McDougall CW, Robertson T, Grant B, Hanley N & Quilliam RS (2023) Self-reported benefits and risks of open water swimming to health, wellbeing and the environment: Cross-sectional evidence from a survey of Scottish swimmers. Meena DK (Editor) <i>PLOS ONE</i>, 18 (8), p. e0290834. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0290834
|Engaging with natural environments benefits human health by providing opportunities for social interactions, enhancing mental wellbeing and enabling outdoor spaces for physical exercise. Open water swimming has seen a rapid increase in popularity, partly due to the physical health benefits it can provide but also with the growing interest in (re)connecting with nature for environment-health interactions. Using a national-scale online survey of 717 open water swimmers, the aim of this study was to investigate patterns and trends in the perceived benefits and risks of open water swimming to both public health and the environment; and to understand whether these perceived risks and benefits vary across different typologies of swimmers and open water, or ‘blue space’, environments. Strong associations were found between the most important self-reported benefit associated with open water swimming and both participant age and the categorisation of their typical swim style. All but one of the age-groups surveyed perceived mental wellbeing benefits to be the most important benefit of open water swimming; whilst those aged over 65 identified physical rather than mental wellbeing benefits to be the most important outcome. Participants who preferred lake swimming reported greater concern regarding possible environmental damage caused by the increasing popularity of open water swimming compared to those engaging in river or sea swimming. However, the majority of participants perceived the risks to the environment from open water swimming to be minimal. Our study adds to the growing evidence that open water swimming is perceived by participants as benefitting their mental and physical wellbeing. Improved understanding of the benefits and risks of engaging with blue spaces used for open water swimming can contribute to co-designed policy development to promote safer, healthier and more sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities associated with this increasingly popular outdoor pursuit.
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|Oliver et al.pdf
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