The wellbeing benefits of sea swimming. Is it time to revisit the sea cure?

Hannah Denton, Kay Aranda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sea and open water swimming is rapidly growing in popularity and many participants are extolling the benefits to their mental and physical health. Despite the wealth of anecdotal reports, little empirical research has been undertaken exploring the impact of this activity. To gain access and understanding of the embodied, emplaced and temporal experience of swimming I developed a novel mobile method. I carried out ‘swim-along’ interviews, and follow up land-based interviews, with six regular sea swimmers. Using a lifeworld phenomenological analysis based on the ideas of Merleau-Ponty, I identified three significant dimensions that reflected the experience for the swimmers interviewed. They found sea swimming transformative, causing changes in mind, body and identity; connecting, enabling a sense of belonging to nature, place and others; and finally re-orientating, through the disruption to the sense of time, space and body swimmers can find alternative and expanded perspectives about themselves and their world. All these effects positively impact on wellbeing and indicate that sea swimming offers benefits that go far beyond just a way of improving fitness.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2019


  • Merleau-Ponty
  • Sea swimming
  • mobile methods
  • open-water swimming
  • phenomenology


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