Healthy Parks Healthy People is an international movement working to promote the important link between healthy environments and healthy people. As our societies urbanize, spending quality time in natural environments in becoming increasingly foreign and difficult. As a result, more people than ever are experiencing what’s known as ‘nature deficit disorder’, a condition that stems from a disconnection to nature and is shown to cause a slew of negative mental and physical health benefits.

Photo by Parker Muzzerall

To combat this phenomenon, the Health Parks Healthy People movement helps get people outside and into nature. Locally in Ontario, Healthy Parks Healthy people is supported by Ontario Parks. Beyond offering a rich library of resources and campaigns aimed at making nature more accessible, they also make all Ontario Parks for free once a summer. This year, that day is Friday, July 19.

All of the Swim Drink Fish initiatives, including Swim Guide, Great Lakes Guide, and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, are proud supporters of Healthy Parks Healthy People. Given our inherent connection and love for water, swimming in a natural water body is one of our absolute favourite ways to get outside and reap the benefits of both nature and water.

Swimming Outside

Swimming in a natural water body offers an exhilarating feeling of freedom, while being incredibly soothing and relaxing. Weightlessness in water can have a calming effect on the mind, improving mindfulness, and decreasing anxiety and depression. It releases endorphins, the body’s natural happy chemicals. This can increase growth of brain cells that are lost during chronic stress. In essence, it is a natural anti-depression/anti-anxiety treatment!

There are also endless physical benefits to swimming. Swimming, especially in cold water, helps boost your immune system (stimulating your body to increase the abundance of white blood cells). It improves blood circulation and releases adrenaline, which acts as a natural painkiller

And, it is a great form of exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels. This whole-body workout builds muscles, increases endurance, enhances heart strength, and increases range of motion. It is perfect for people with arthritis, injuries, disabilities, and people who have difficulty with high-impact exercises. It is also perfect for women who are pregnant and those with asthma, as a natural way to increase lung capacity without risk due to chemicals used to treat pools.

Photo by seibert4 (Flickr)

Fun and Accessible

Outdoor swimming is great for kids and a must-do family activity in the summer months. Children are naturally motivated to get outside and engage in active outdoor play. Swimming provides them with an outlet to burn off energy, soak up some vitamin D, build muscle and strong bones, explore, and unleash their creativity. It is an accessible and affordable family activity, as most lakes and beaches have no entrance fees. Plus, if you find yourself in the Great Lakes region there is water all around you, so it’s easy to get away on a sunny afternoon!

We should all swim in natural, clean waters as much as possible. There is nothing quite like it. But don’t just take our word for it! Get out there and try natural swimming for yourself. We are sure that you will find yourself returning to it time, and time again.

Photo by Henry Bergius

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