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Benefits of Sea Swimming to the Immune and Respiratory System

Scientists have proven that sea swimming boosts your immune system and elevates depression.

Scientists from the Czech Republic immersed subjects in cold water for one hour, three times a week and monitored their physiology. Interestingly enough they found significant increases in white blood cell counts and several other factors relating to the immune system. This was attributed to the cold water being a mild stressor, which activates the immune system, giving it a boost and thereby strengthening it.

The cold, it appears, stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and repair, and this can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin.

These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression.

Couple this effect with the endorphin rush as you take the plunge from the sea and it makes for a warm glow and a wide smile when you re-emerge with a happier mood.

Evidence is also beginning to emerge that cold water sea swimming can provide health benefits relating to the immune system in that swimmers in general appear to get less colds during the winter months than non swimmers.

In a collaboration with Portsmouth University, Naomi Collier, is undertaking a PhD studying this in detail. The first study showed that, compared to controls, sea swimmers seemed to have lower incidence of colds during winter.

The underlying basis for this is the effect of cold water adaptation on the inflammatory process. The inflammatory process is very complicated and cold water adaptation may be more effective than expensive drugs. Furthermore, high levels of inflammation are associated with many conditions such as depression whereas low levels of inflammation are associated with qualities of longevity.

Therefore in essence sea swimming can strengthen immunity and reduce depression.

Benefits to the Respiratory System

Sea water may also lessen the symptoms of hay fever such as a runny and itchy nose the water acts like a ‘saline douche’, washing the nasal passages clear of the irritating pollens.

People who live by and swim in the sea tend to have healthier respiratory systems, says Maureen Jenkins, Director of Clinical Services with the charity Allergy UK. 'Sea water is a cleanser, and it mimics the body’s own fluids in the lining of the airways, and so doesn’t irritate them,’ she says.

Not only does this mean it can help wash away irritants, its antiseptic properties mean that wounds are more likely to heal, she adds. There is also the fact that a good sea breeze brings cleaner, pollen-free air in from the sea.

Come and find out for yourself!

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