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Benefits of Swimming in Cold Water

It's widely publicised recently how many top level athletes are using cold water therapy, or cold immersion therapy, as a means for rapid recovery after extended persiods of physical activity.

The belief is that the cold temperature speeds up bodily recovery.

Although it is one of those areas that is yet to be proven conclusively, it is a common belief in many cultures of the world that there are indeed therapeutic effects of immersion in cold water.

Indeed, we all know the effect of jumping into a cold pool or the sea on the first swim of the summer - it's bracing right? You certainly don't come out feeling lethargic and depressed. Researchers put this down to cold water acting like a mild stressor, activating the immune system and giving it a workout.

In an article published by the Telegraph - The Joys of Cold Water Swimming - Dr Mark Harper, the Outdoor Swimming Society’s cold expert says: “better metabolism, especially with regard to the way the body handles sugar” as another benefit, and talks of how repeated immersion helps 'train’ our fight-or-flight response - the icy temperatures being several degrees below the tropical climes of our evolutionary origin - meaning that we might become better at coping with stress, “a bit like the controlled exposure used for allergies”.

He continues and cites cold water as improving mood and creating a feeling of exhilaration, the same effect as a massive endorphin-boost.

In the same article ice swimming expert Pauline Barker describes an “immediate rush of adrenaline, even as you get in, that leaves me smiling for the rest of the day”. While the Finnish study reported that, “after four months, the swimmers felt themselves to be more energetic, active and brisk”, concluding that “improvement of general well-being is thus a benefit induced by regular winter swimming.”

Cold water swimmers commonly report that swimming in a cold water environment helps with a wide variety of physical and mental conditions from muscle pain to the mental scars of bereavement.

The very act of doing this in a natural environment, outside, in nature, with other like minded people who you ultimately form friendships with, has a profound effect on general well being.

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