7 Benefits of Cold Water Swimming05 January 2023
From health experts, Instagram videos, TV shows, and more, you’ve probably heard about the growing phenomenon of cold water swimming. Its rapid increase in popularity isn’t something to get cold feet about, there are scientifically proven benefits to bracing the cold. Whether it’s improving your physical or mental health, we’re convinced there’s a cold water benefit that’ll get you raring to take the plunge.
So grab your wetsuit, swimming costume, trunks or speedos and join us as we dive headfirst into the benefits of cold water swimming.
What should a beginner consider when starting cold water swimming?
Before we get into the ocean that is the benefits of cold water swimming, there are a few important safety tips to know before you dip a toe into open water.
Firstly, humour us as we say cold water swimming is just that, cold. It’s the nature of the sport, and without these low temperatures, it’s simply just swimming. To prepare for cold water swimming, beginners should wear a wetsuit and swim in an area where there is a lifeguard and/or other swimmers.
Even if you’re a confident swimmer, the addition of cold water can change your ability and energy levels quickly, so take it slow, know your limits and be aware of your surroundings.
While on land, practice proper breathing techniques, such as alternating between breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, to stay safe and comfortable in cold water.
Start slow and listen to your body. Post-swim, remember to keep warm and always bring water and a snack to replenish your energy levels.
We’ve covered the important safety tips, so let’s get into the benefits of cold water swimming.
Cold water swimming can improve endurance by increasing the body’s tolerance to cold temperatures. By swimming in cold water, the body is forced to work harder to maintain a constant temperature, which increases the body’s ability to tolerate colder temperatures and thus increases endurance.
Why is this good? Enduring prolonged exposure to the cold can improve circulation, reduce inflammation and burn body fat - and that’s just the start!
Cold Water Swimming Increases Blood Flow
We all know our bodies are amazing, but they really come into their own when faced with extreme conditions. When you hear ‘extreme conditions’, we aren’t talking about trekking through the Arctic in your undies or climbing into a barrel of ice from the get-go. No, cold water swimming (even in a wet suit) can supercharge your body!
Taking a dip in the cold encourages your blood vessels to constrict in response to the cold temperature. This constriction forces the heart to pump harder and faster in order to maintain a constant circulation of blood throughout the body.
When the body warms up after swimming, the blood vessels relax, resulting in increased blood flow, bringing nutrients to your muscles and improving your overall health. Brrrrrr-illiant!
Improves Mental Toughness
Do you enjoy the rush of a mental challenge? Then cold water swimming is for you. Nothing can seem more daunting than the vastness of open water, the coldness of the river or the depth of the lake. These fears and doubts can break a swimmer down…or build them up!
One benefit of cold water swimming is that it encourages swimmers to push through discomfort, both physical and psychological, by facing the cold water. Sounds intense, doesn’t it? On the contrary, cold water swimming offers swimmers the space, time and silence to practice mindfulness. In the water, it’s just you, your body and your thoughts. The cold water will help you stay in the present and appreciate your body and surroundings, however cold they may be.
Of course, as we learnt above, working through fears still means we need to listen to our bodies and know our limits.
Now more than ever we could all use a little immunity boost. Luckily for us, studies have suggested that cold water swimming can improve immunity by stimulating the lymphatic system, which helps to eliminate toxins and waste materials from the body. So say goodbye to that stuffy nose.
Cold water swimming can also increase circulation, which helps to oxygenate the cells and improve their function. Cold water also causes physiological stress on the body (the good kind), which causes the immune system to respond by producing more antibodies.
Burns More Calories
But doesn’t swimming burn calories anyway? Yes, any form of exercising will help burn calories but by turning down the heat and getting a little chilly, your body can burn up to twice the calories, making cold water swimming a great way to lose weight.
How does it work? Cold water swimming burns calories by requiring the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature, something it doesn’t have to do in a nice, heated pool. The physical work you put in (the actual swimming) stays mostly the same.
Helps You Live a Stress-Free Life
Wouldn’t we all like to have a little less stress in our lives? Whether it’s work, family or anxiety, stress can hugely impact how we live day-to-day, in ways we may not even realise.
Cold water swimming can help reduce stress. But how? The dramatic temperature of the water triggers your body to produce more endorphins, which are hormones that can help improve mood and reduce anxiety. Something you wouldn’t even know happens, until you start to feel the benefits.
Studies have also found that people who swim in cold water tend to have lower resting heart rates than those who swim in heated pools. A slower heart rate can help reduce stress levels as well as encourage the body to produce more cortisol, a hormone that helps the body cope with stress.
Like most benefits, these changes rarely happen overnight, but if you commit to cold water swimming, the benefits can be life-changing.
Sleep Performance Improves
Much like boosting your immunity, there are rarely any downsides to improving your sleep performance. Cold water swimming stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering your body’s natural relaxation response, which helps your body and mind to slow down. This means you’ll find yourself drifting into a sound sleep a lot easier. You’ll also wake up feeling well-rested, relaxed, and ready for the day ahead!
With all these amazing benefits, it’s no wonder more and more people are bracing the cold and taking the plunge. So go on, for your mental, physical and spiritual health, dive in!