Cold water swimming is nothing new – it’s been practised throughout history as people have enjoyed immersing themselves in fresh, cold water for an invigorating dip.
But it’s only recently that we have really come to understand the many benefits – not just for physical health but for mental wellbeing too.
If you’re tempted by this simple way to exercise, enjoy nature and reap the rewards all at the same time, read on for our tips on how to prepare for a cold water swimming session.
Cold water swimming tips
Image: Cold water swimming at Love2Stay in Shrewsbury
If you’re a novice, it’s always a good idea to seek advice on cold water swimming before you embark on your new regime.
First of all, you’ll need to acclimatise your body over time to swimming in cold water. Try it out a few times a week, gradually increasing the amount of time you stay in the water. You can even prepare by decreasing the temperature in your daily shower for a week or so.
One way to make the transition to colder temperatures easier is to start cold swimming in summer when the water will be cold but not unbearable. Then as summer slides into autumn, your body will have become acclimatised.
You may have heard about the “cold shock response”. This is when your body reacts to being immersed in cold water by gasping, quickened breath and increased blood pressure and heart rate. This a natural reaction and can be reduced by practice. In fact, as few as six sessions lasting three minutes where your body (not including your head) is immersed in water can reduce the shock by 50 per cent.
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Benefits of cold water swimming
Image: Regular cold water swimmer at Love2Stay.
The great news is that as well as this shock or stress response being reduced for cold water swimming with practice, it will also lessen in other stressful situations such as public speaking or during exams!
What’s more, some experts believe that the shock response stimulates the production of white blood cells, improving your immune system and helping to defend you against infections.
Another theory about protection from disease published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine says that experiencing cold water immersion on a regular basis can boost the antioxidant glutathione in your body. This stimulates other valuable antioxidants which helps your body to lower the risk of serious diseases like cancer and heart disease.
And, of course, cold water swimming is also great for calming the mind. This is in part due to you being intensely focused on the experience of swimming in cold water, clearing your mind of day-to-day worries.
Cold water is also great for soothing inflammation. In cold environments, your body automatically diverts blood from your limbs towards your core to keep it warm. Lessened blood flow to your arms and legs combats inflammation and helps muscles recover faster.
Cold water swimming for weight loss
Image: Outdoor Cold Water Swimming at Love2Stay in Shrewsbury
If you’re swimming in cold water weight loss becomes easier. This is down to brown adipose tissue or brown fat, as it’s commonly known, that is present in our bodies. It is stimulated by exposure to cold water. As well as serving to keep you warm, it also burns off calories quicker, helping you to lose weight.
Anyone who exercises regularly will recognise the natural “high” you get from the release of hormones. Mix in exposure to the cold temperatures of natural pools and you will find that this feeling of wellbeing is enhanced
Cold water boosts libido
And talking of hormones, a study by the Thrombosis Research Institute found that for men, being in cold water stimulated the production of testosterone helping to keep their libidos healthy.
If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re tempted to dive into the nearest natural pool to get your fix of cold water therapy. Before you do, check out our tips to help keep you safe while you enjoy the benefits of cold water swimming.
• First and foremost, if you feel uneasy in the cold temperatures, get out immediately.
• It’s always advisable to swim with a friend who will be able to spot whether you are getting into difficulty and vice versa.
• Be careful to get out of the water if you are shivering excessively. This is a sign that your body desperately needs to warm up.
• Be aware of the signs of hypothermia. These include slurring of speech, confusion, and difficulty in coordination. If you or a fellow
swimmer shows these signs, get out of the water immediately.
• Remember that your body will continue to cool down up to half an hour after getting out of the water, so it’s really important to get yourself warm straight away. Put on dry clothes, have a hot drink and don’t fight the urge to shiver – it’s the body’s way of warming you up!
Curious to know more?
Image: cold water swimmer is “Ice man” Wim Hof
One famous cold water swimmer is “Ice man” Wim Hof, who holds 26 world records relating to feats achieved in icy conditions. He sums up the amazing benefits of exposure to cold by saying that it reconnects you to your inner power to survive in challenging conditions.
His method is based on three pillars: cold therapy, including immersion in icy water, breathing and commitment, which he says help you, “Regain control of your primordial connection: your brain, body and the way nature wants you to be”.
His amazing achievements include and running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle with nothing on his feet and dressed only in shorts, as well as swimming under ice for a total of 66 metres.
He has been subject to brain scans and university studies over the years. One such study found that his method of exposing his body to cold temperatures stimulated the area in the brain that suppresses pain, while another found that people who practised his methods had stronger immune and nervous systems.
Even our very own Park Manager, Chris Skitt, swears by it...
Image: Regular Cold Water Swimmer at Love2Stay in Shrewsbury
"I started taking a cold dip in October 2019 and I have done it religiously since then. I have seen many significant benefits mostly relating to health and wellness. I now feel more energised throughout the day, my general mood state is improved and I feel I am now able to take on any challenge that is in front of me. I aim to complete 6 sessions a week for around about 10 minutes at a time, of course jumping in the hot tub straight after serves as a nice piece of motivation.
I have changed very little else in my weekly routine and have seen a loss of approximately half a stone throughout the time I have been doing it, which is a lovely added bonus.
Whilst getting in was difficult when I first started, the discomfort soon passes and now I'm at a stage where I actually look forward to getting in…….even when the water is 0 degrees! With that in mind, I implore you to give it a go!!!!!!!! "
The tranquillity of cold water swimming
Or why not try cold water swimming in the tranquil and beautiful setting of Love2Stay’s glamping, adventure and caravan touring site? Our chemical-free outdoor swimming pool nestles amongst the beautiful backdrop of the Shropshire countryside, offering you an all-natural swimming experience. Even in the colder months, our visitors regularly enjoy the health-giving and life-enhancing benefits of cold water swimming. Book a cold water swimming session at Love2Stay and enjoy reaping the benefits of this natural, calming activity.