Swimming as an accretive practice in healthy blue space

Research paper by Ronan Foley

Indexed on: 08 Jan '17Published on: 19 Dec '16Published in: Emotion, Space and Society


Publication date: February 2017 Source:Emotion, Space and Society, Volume 22 Author(s): Ronan Foley Cultural geographers are increasingly interested in research on water and water-based practices as sites of study. Parallel literatures on therapeutic landscapes, especially emergent work on healthy blue space, have also begun to explore emotional geographies. This paper is an empirical study of outdoor swimming in Ireland with a specific focus on health and wellbeing. A key aim is to uncover evidence on how specific blue places and practices enable health. The idea of a continuum is utilised to link theory and practice and connect rather than divide affect, feeling and emotion. This is articulated through a set of embodied experiential practices that proposed swimming as a process of therapeutic accretion. Both personal and shared histories are used to identify the importance of both swimming practices and places to show how therapeutic accretions emerge to build healthy resilience. Additional insights suggest aspects of embodied health that are enhanced by outdoor swimming, especially in relation to bodies perceived to be inactive due to age, illness or disability. While the risks are not ignored, the need to better value outdoor swimming in cooler climates for public health is proposed, suggesting new directions for research on outdoor swimming to simultaneously capture active and passive embodied and emotional experiences within blue space.