Outdoor swimming to treat depression will be tested as an alternative to drugs | UK News

Prescribing outdoor swimming for depression is going to be tested as an alternative to medication.

Scientists want to examine the benefits for people with mental illness offered by ecotherapy – therapeutic intervention through nature.

Experts from the University of Portsmouth will work with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to examine how a dip in nature compares to antidepressants.

Exercise is already recommended by the NHS as a way to help people with depression fight depression.

Cold water immersion has been shown to reduce stress levels, and a search is underway for volunteers for the new study who will participate in a swimming lesson.

Swimming lessons will take place at Parliament Hill in London, Lenches Lake in Worcestershire and Saunton in North Devon.

The swimmers’ results will be compared to those of a control group using existing treatments for depression.

It comes as scientists and doctors re-examine their understanding of depression following research suggesting some of the the mechanics of how the condition works may be incorrect.

A University of Portsmouth spokesperson said: “The study, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), will provide preliminary support for the use of outdoor swimming as an alternative to antidepressants or talk therapy.”

Co-author Dr Heather Massey, from the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, said: “In this new study, we are looking at outdoor swimming in the social prescribing framework, which aims to support community members who are self-referred or referred by a number of professional organizations to community activities that will support them.

“It’s a step forward in terms of scientific rigor.”

Mental health charity Mind already recommends ecotherapy.

Its website states, “Ecotherapy is a formal type of therapeutic treatment that involves engaging in outdoor activities in nature.”

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call the Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the United States, call your local Samaritans branch or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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