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Health benefits of cold water swimming

What were your initial thoughts and feelings when you took your first dip into cold water?

Not only is cold water swimming exciting and fun, but there are significant health benefits attached to submerging yourself in ice-cold water. 

You might be wondering what on earth could be beneficial about freezing your bum off in arctic temperatures, but trust us; there are plenty!

We have come across many wild water swimmers that started swimming in the Winter purely based on the health benefits it can offer. 

So, if you are hesitant to give the open waters a chance, why not try cold water swimming for your mental and physical well-being?

What are the health benefits of cold water swimming?

We have explored all the well-known and scientifically proven health benefits of cold water swimming. 

Keep reading to discover how this cold water swimming can improve your mind, body and soul!

1. Boosts your immune system.

Many studies have proven the amazing health benefits that freezing cold water can have on your immune system.

Cold water swimming causes your body temperature to drop dramatically, forcing your white blood cells to respond. Essentially, submerging in cold water increases your white blood cell count, which is great for your immune system. 

The sudden temperature drop helps keep your white blood cells adaptable, and an adaptive immune system will fight off unwanted sickness. 

There’s a reason why we cold water swimmers rarely get unwell!

2. Increases endorphins. 

Cold water swimming helps you release happy hormones, also known as endorphins!

Endorphins make us feel great, so adding a dip in icy waters to your weekly regime will keep you feeling at your best. (The brain produces higher levels of dopamine in cold water too!)

You may wonder how bathing in cold temperatures can make you feel happy when it seems uncomfortable and painful. Well, endorphins are released when we feel pain, as they help us make the discomfort more tolerable. So, if you feel like you are hitting your pain barrier in the cold water, persevere, as you will be rewarded with an enhanced mood! 

The shockingly cold water drives our bodies to produce more endorphins, which is fantastic!

3. Boosts your metabolism.

swimming benefits

Freezing cold water swimming can help you lose weight as your metabolism increases. Yep, you heard it right!

As cold water decreases your body temperature, your heart rate increases to keep you warm, meaning you shred calories. 

Many scientific studies have consistently shown that you will burn more calories swimming in cold water, more so than in warm water. 

So, swimming in lakes or rivers that are outside and glacial could help you drop the pounds quicker than swimming in an indoor heated pool. Always remember to fuel your body and combat your hunger, and never swim on an empty stomach.

A bonus is that swimming outside can be free; you don’t need to pay for a leisure centre membership. 

boosts endorphins

4. Helps to reduce pain and inflammation.

Have you ever used an ice pack after a sports injury or if you have a headache? Well, cold water swimming helps similarly. 

Research has shown a dunk in icy water after exercising can help to reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain. Athletes don’t just take ice baths in films; they do in real life too. 

While ice swimming isn’t the answer to all chronic pain, it can help to ease any aches picked up throughout a tough week, as endorphins help lower your pain barrier. 

So, get your wetsuit on, get in the water, and relax! 

5. It increases your libido and supports fertility.

Listen up! If you want to spice up your love life, then surprisingly, wild water swims could be the answer. 

Cold water boosts oestrogen and testosterone levels, meaning you might feel a bit more frisky than normal. 

Increased oestrogen and testosterone have also been proven to improve fertility. So, if you and your partner are trying for a baby, pack your bags and get to that wintery lake!

Having a higher libido can make you feel sexy, confident, happier, and alive.

6. Improves mental health.

Research has shown that individuals who struggle with depression found reduced levels of anxiety and despondency when they added cold water swimming into their weekly routine. 

We love to go to open waters when we have had a stressful day or week. The water’s temperature and stillness soothe a hectic mind, and you can find peace in the tranquillity. 

But don’t take it from us; studies have proven the advantages swimming in cold water can have for various mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. 

The temperature of wild waters can cold shock the system, but it forces you to focus on your breathing which helps to calm your nervous system. So, if you are having a bad day, go to the lakes!

7. Helps with menopause symptoms.

Unfortunately, menopause comes with various adverse symptoms, such as headaches, anxiety, reduced libido, a loss of memory, and the famous hot flush. 

We have already covered how cold water therapy can improve libido and reduce anxiety, but cold water immersion can also ease migraines. 

A group of women from Swansea, all experiencing menopause, get together every week for an icy dip, and they have told the BBC how their lives have improved! We recommend giving this article a read if you struggle with menopause.

8. Soothes your vagus nerve.

Your vagus nerve plays a key role in initiating your fight or flight response, which induces anxiety and stress. It also helps to maintain all your essential organs.

Time to get scientific. If you have a high vagal tone, your body physically can chill out quicker after bouts of stress, as your parasympathetic nervous system functions well.

Cold water swimming has been proven to soothe your vagus nerve. You can relax more effectively as your heart rate drops quicker and your intestinal and glandular production increases quicker.

9. Improves circulation.

Up next on our list of the health benefits of cold water swimming is improved circulation. Swimming in cold waters can help improve circulation by forcing blood to the surface of your veins, capillaries, and arteries. 

Our bodies eventually adjust to extremities, such as freezing waters, meaning the more you immerse yourself in lower temperatures, the less pain you will feel.

Your body slowly adapts as your circulation improves, so while it might take a lot of courage to go for your first open water plunge, it will become easier every time. 

Cold water swimming can be amazing for older and vulnerable people, as it helps you adapt to the colder months. So, harsh winters are easier to cope with and less of a health risk. 

We encourage individuals of any age to try wild water swimming, as the health benefits for everyone are undeniable. 

10. It’s a full-body workout!

You can go for a leisurely dip or push yourself to the limit. One easy way to warm up in cold water is to exert energy, so some swimmers like to swim in lakes, rivers, or the sea for exercise. 

Swimming is a great form of training and will help keep you at your optimal fitness level. It builds your endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular functions. 

You can lose weight, gain tone, and improve your overall body health, while still having fun in a community of adventure seekers.

If you want to reduce the impact of cold water shock, wetsuits are an important asset to own. We can offer you all the tips and tricks of wetsuit maintenance, so you only have to buy one.

11. Enjoy the sense of community

All over the country, wild water swimmers meet every so often to challenge themselves physically and mentally. 

Us humans crave socialisation and friendship, so joining a community of like-minded individuals warms the heart and builds confidence. 

Cold water swimming brings friendship and comradery, which have been shown to improve our mental well-being, as we can meet our socio-emotional needs. Social connectedness increases our self-value.

You will laugh at the faces people pull as they enter the water, bond over the warm cups of tea to warm up again, and make lifelong friends with similar interests. 

Join an outdoor swimming society today; we promise you won’t regret it.

health benefit

FAQS

Can you get hypothermia from cold water swimming?

It is possible to get hypothermia from cold water immersion; however, don’t panic; there are ways to enjoy a cold swim safely and reduce any risk.

  • Firstly, you will be more susceptible to hypothermia if you are fatigued or dehydrated. Never swim when you feel tired or weak; ensure you have drank plenty of water before a trip to cold waters. 
  • Once you get out of the water, you should warm up quickly by dressing in a dry robe, having a hot drink, and popping a hat on. 
  • You should avoid dunking your head under the water, as this will help keep your body heat at a safe level, and you should wear neoprene gloves, a quality wetsuit and a neoprene swimming hat
  • Ensure you remove any wet clothing, such as your swimming costume, when you exit the ice-cold water and change into an insulating dry robe, as your temperature drops even further when you leave the waters.

How long is it safe to swim in cold water?

If you are new to swimming in cold waters, limit your swims to around ten minutes. 

Once you feel comfortable with your stamina, you may be able to increase the time you spend in the water. Still, we wouldn’t recommend longer than 45 minutes, even for professional cold water swimmers. 

Repeated exposure to icy temperatures via wild swimming will help you go for longer swims.

You should start warming up after a short time in the icy conditions as your body regulates itself.

However, if you remain uncomfortably cold after five minutes, this should be your cue to get out and get to warmer conditions.

Does cold water swimming affect your blood pressure?

Studies into cold water swimmers and blood pressure levels found no significant correlation. 

So, cold temperatures are unlikely to impact an individual’s blood pressure. 

However, if your blood pressure is extremely high or low, we would not recommend swimming in the cold, as it may still be extremely dangerous.

How many calories do you burn in cold water swimming?

Research has shown men burned 517 calories in swimming in cold water compared to 505 calories in mild water. 

While the change isn’t dramatic, this research proves swimming in the cold causes the body to react more vigorously.

Why does cold water swimming make you tired?

Cold water swimmers use their muscles extensively, which increases fatigue levels after extended periods. 

Essentially, your body physically exerts much more energy to keep your body temperature warm, and your body functions regulated. So, it is no surprise cold water swimmers might feel a bit tired after a cold dip.

Just make sure to warm up properly as soon as you exit the waters by putting on warm clothes, taking a hot shower, and get into warmer conditions.

Summary

This article has covered the health benefits of cold water swimming. As with any exercise, you feel amazing afterwards as your dopamine levels skyrocket. 

Open water swimming is becoming increasingly popular for every age group, as people are starting to understand the hype of going for a dip in colder and polar regions. 

Whether you want to try to improve your health or to see if you are brave enough to get all the way in, we couldn’t think of a better hobby to take up. 

Here at Cold Water Swim, we are well aware of the cold water swimming benefits, and would strongly encourage our readers to consider winter swimming. 

Always take the necessary safety conditions before ice swimming in low water temperature.

Check out our favourite wetsuits now!

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3 thoughts on “Health benefits of cold water swimming”

  1. william james newman

    im 71 years old and have been cold water swimming at a local quarry for about 6 weeks now. I wish i had started years ago. such a friendly lot of people swim there and i am feeling much better in myself and its helping with my fitness and weight loss. one of the best pursuits i have discovered. your never too old to learn.

  2. I’m 76 years old and have been cold sea dipping for nearly 2 years with a lovely pod of like minded ladies of varied ages – when we have a newbie joining us for their first dip they are usually close to terrified – within minuets of entering the water there is always a huge grin on their faces – and they are hooked !!! What a great sport this is – most of us just dip rather than full on swim and it’s amazing

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