Health and wellbeing

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000


We intend to run a courses focusing on confidence in the water for women who wish to improve their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. There are lots of courses locally run to help people transition from the pool to the sea but many people are intimidated by these courses. Many women struggle to get into a swim suit, let alone a pool or the wide open sea. Yet it is exactly these women that would benefit so much from introducing open water swimming into their lives.
We have canvassed feedback from local women, who have experienced hormonal and menopausal related wellbeing issues, aged 40-60. We asked them; 1. If they visit the beach and swim in the sea? 2. What factors can contribute to low confidence and motivation, preventing them from swimming in the pool or the sea? We then asked them to help us develop ideas for activities that would “make them feel happier and more confident” as part of a pilot session. In this way we have gained a real insight into the issues faced by women of a certain age.
We understand that there are points in women’s lives where they need support to build resilience and to make improvements to their wellbeing. We believe that outdoor swimming can improve outcomes for women experiencing mental health challenges from firsthand experience. Modern day living is a challenge, particularly in times of austerity. Services are being cut and many vulnerable women are falling through the net. Brighton & Hove residents have higher levels of mental ill health than the average for England, across a range of indicators. In England, women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders (Mental Health Foundation) Many women that would benefit most from sport and physical activity are the very women who are least likely to participate for cultural, personal, practical, and economic reasons. Helping women to overcome these barriers and supporting them to engage in activity will provide them with many positive outcomes and ensure that access to sport and physical activity is equal for all.
Open water swimming benefits have been researched and written about a great deal over the last few years and is often referred to as Blue Science. In 2009, Prof Michael Depledge and Dr William Bird, from the European Centre for Environment and Health, based out of the University of Exeter Medical School, proposed a notion called the "Blue Gym" - the idea being that the sea can be used as motivation to exercise outdoors to influence health and wellbeing. They found that regular contact with natural environments provided three major health benefits: reduced stress, increased physical activity and created stronger communities.
Various social factors put women at greater risk of poor mental health than men. However, women's readiness to talk about their feelings and their strong social networks can help protect their mental health. Seabirds already have an established network of sea swimmers that gain confidence and happiness from being part of a community group. The course would act as a foundation for women to join the already established swimming community group providing them with respite from daily worries, a support network and a regular activity and meet up.
The money would be spent on equipment like swim hats and dry robes - to keep participants warm and safe, changing and pool facility hire - to provide a safe environment for participants to get used to open water swimming, administration costs and dedicated coaches and instructors to facilitate the courses to ensure the participants get the best out of the courses. Female-centric courses with participants falling into a similar age bracket in a safe and structured environment may be the only way some women would even consider swimming the sea. We are passionate about encouraging more women into the waves to improve their wellbeing and voting for this project would make this happen


Moment of Pride

This idea was born in the sea while members of the Seabirds swimming group chatted. We all had similar experiences and are aware of the positive impact community sea swimming has on our wellbeing. Giving others the opportunity to experience this would make us immensely proud and happy.

Location: Brighton