Feeling the Chill: The Surprising Health Benefits of Cold Water Swimming

Feeling the Chill: The Surprising Health Benefits of Cold Water Swimming

Courtesy of Red Paddle Co

Cold water swimming has been gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Not only does it feel invigorating and refreshing, but it also has a variety of physical and mental health benefits. Some scientific studies have suggested that it may improve cardiovascular health, increase circulation, boost the immune system, and even help with depression and anxiety.

Mental Benefits

Depression and Anxiety: A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders suggested that regular cold water swimming may help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The researchers suggest that this may be due to the release of endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals, in response to the cold.

Increased mental toughness: Cold water swimming can help to build mental toughness by pushing individuals out of their comfort zone and teaching them to cope with discomfort.

Stress relief: Cold water immersion has been shown to lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, and can help improve overall emotional well-being. A study published in the Journal of Physiology found that cold water immersion may have a positive effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s fight or flight response.

Better sleep: Cold water swimming can improve the quality of sleep by promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels.

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Physical Benefits

Inflammation: One of the primary benefits of cold water swimming is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection, but when it becomes chronic, it can lead to a host of health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Cold water swimming works by adapting the body to the cold, which reduces inflammation and supports the repair system. Additionally, the act of submerging the face in cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, which triggers the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system, further reducing inflammation in the body.

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that cold water immersion may help to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after exercise. The researchers found that cold water immersion led to a decrease in muscle damage and inflammation markers, such as creatine kinase and interleukin-6, which may help to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery.

Fitness & Beauty

Performance: A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that cold water immersion may help to improve endurance exercise performance. The researchers found that cold water immersion before exercise led to a decrease in muscle temperature, which improved muscle function and allowed for better exercise performance. Increased endurance: Cold water swimming can help increase endurance by forcing the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature, leading to improved physical fitness.

Beauty: Increased collagen production: A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that cold water immersion may help to improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. The researchers found that cold water immersion led to an increase in collagen production and a decrease in the activity of enzymes that break down collagen.

Health & Diet

Diabetes: A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found that cold water swimming may help to improve insulin sensitivity, which is important for preventing diabetes and metabolic diseases. The researchers found that regular cold water swimming led to an increase in insulin sensitivity, which may help to lower the risk of diabetes and metabolic diseases.

Increased metabolism: One study published in the Journal of Physiology in 2002 found that cold water immersion increased metabolic rate by as much as 30%, with the effect lasting for up to 2 hours after immersion. This increase in metabolism is thought to be due to the activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of fat found in the body that generates heat.

Immune System

Boosts the Immune System: A study published in the Journal of Physiology found that cold water immersion may help to boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells. This is thought to be due to the release of certain hormones, such as adrenaline, in response to the cold.

Heart health

Improved cardiovascular health: One study published in the Journal of Physiology in 2009 found that regular cold water immersion can lead to significant improvements in cardiovascular function, including an increase in blood flow to the heart and an increase in stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped by the heart with each beat). This can help to improve overall cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Blood Pressure: Another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2011 found that cold water immersion can lead to a reduction in blood pressure, which can help to reduce the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions. It’s important to note that cold water swimming should be approached with caution, especially for people with certain health conditions or for those who are not used to cold temperatures. It’s always best to start with short dips and gradually increase the duration over time, and listen to your body’s response.

Getting Started

To get started with cold water swimming, all you need is a wetsuit, a changing robe and a few additional items that can make the experience more enjoyable. A swimming cap, neoprene gloves and booties can help keep you warm, while a brightly colored float can increase visibility in the water. To make the experience more enjoyable, you can also make it a part of a larger outing, such as a hike or bike ride, or pack a cool bag with snacks and hot drinks for afterwards.

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Make it Fun

One of the best ways to introduce others to the joys of cold water swimming is to make it a fun and adventurous experience. Instead of just focusing on the swim itself, consider incorporating other activities such as hiking or biking to add an element of excitement and adventure. Plus, these activities can serve as a great warm-up before the swim and a nice way to relax and warm up afterwards.

Turn it into a fun outing with friends and family. Pack a cooler bag with hot drinks and snacks, such as a thermos of hot chocolate and some warm baked potatoes or pastries. Not only will this make the experience more enjoyable, but it can also be a great way to entice hesitant family members to join in.

Joining a cold-water swimming club can also be a great way to build a community of like-minded individuals and make the experience more social and safe. Going for a swim in mid-February doesn’t seem quite so extreme when there’s a group of people doing it. And as they say, there is strength in numbers!

Cold water swimming is a simple and enjoyable way to boost overall health and wellbeing. With its benefits for physical and mental health, it’s no wonder that it has become increasingly popular around the world. By making it a fun and adventurous experience and by making it social, it can be a great way to introduce others to the joys of cold water swimming. And who knows, you may even find yourself forming a new community of friends.

With the right gear and the right mindset, anyone can take the plunge and experience the benefits of cold water swimming.

Gear

Keep Warm Before Your Swim

You’re definitely going to be cold as soon as you enter the water, and so you certainly don’t need to be standing around getting cold before you even get in the water. Make sure you stay warm on route to your swim by wearing a waterproof changing robe. The Red Original waterproof changing robe features a moisture wicking fleece lining which is perfect for keeping cold water swimmers warm before and after their swim. A wind baffle and toggled hood help to keep you extra cosy. You should only get undressed at the final moment before entering the water.

Enter The Water Slowly 

One of the most important tips for learning how to swim in cold water without a wetsuit is to ease your way in slowly. Never jump or dive in as this can cause cold water shock which can cause you to hyperventilate and create a feeling of panic. In order to prevent this shock you need to wade into the water slowly, keeping your head above the surface and splashing your face with water to acclimatize yourself to the cold. Be patient and breathe as your body adapts to the cold. 

Never Swim Alone

Swimming with a buddy is an important part of how to swim in cold water without a wetsuit, however it’s also crucial for general outdoor swimming safety,

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