#LoveSwimming star Maria hails the ‘massive’ mental health benefits of being in the pool

Swimming had ‘massive and unexpected benefits’ for Maria Parker-Harris’s mental health when undergoing infertility treatment – now she is able to enjoy a special bond with her miracle daughter in the pool.

Maria was a star of the industry-wide #LoveSwimming Escape campaign, which highlighted how swimming significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety or depression for 1.4 millions adults in Britain.

Now, to mark World Mental Health Day, Maria has revisited her #LoveSwimming journey and told how she coped during lockdown after being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder – and the thrill of finally getting back into the water.

In a new video recorded between March and September, Maria also shares how she is enjoying special time in the pool with her daughter Lily Hope.

She said as the coronavirus lockdown was introduced in March: “I found my way back to swimming while dealing with infertility and was told that losing weight would aid my treatment.

“Swimming had massive and unexpected benefits for my mental health. I left the pool feeling lighter and ready for the challenges ahead.

“I fell pregnant whilst on my swimming journey and our daughter Lily-Hope is an absolute miracle to us.

“She started swimming before lockdown and I can’t wait to get back in the pool with her when pools are open again.”

As pools remained closed throughout June, Maria found herself feeling down.

“I have really struggled this week,” she said. “Feeling really low and really stressed.

“So I spoke to the doctor and it looks like I have got moderate PTSD from the years of infertility. That’s pretty tough. I really wish I could go swimming but it’s too windy for this sea and the pools not open, so no swimming yet.”

A bit of social normality

Now Maria is delighted to be back in the water.

“When they announced that pools and gyms and classed could reopen I was absolutely thrilled,” she said.

“I thought ‘finally, I can have a bit of social normality’. Just working on my laps I can let everything go and let my mind balance – it’s wonderful.

“It’s really well organised, really nice to be in warm water at least once a week and I’m really, really enjoying being back.

“It’s so special to be back in the water and swimming with Lily.

“The pool is the only place we can bond like that through a shared activity .

“So in the pool, we can either be in structured lessons or go in one of the family sessions, and just be together and have fun and splash.

“But I know she is learning a really important life skill and hopefully she will have that same head space that I have when she needs it growing up.”