We understand the very thought of jumping into a pool of freezing water may make your hair stand on end. But please, keep on reading!
The health benefits of taking a plunge into cold water are almost too many to count. Cold water swimming has been gaining popularity all over the globe as a healing process.
Cold water swimming, sometimes referred to as winter swimming or ice swimming, is the practice of swimming in the cold. It could be a lake, river, sea, ocean, or an ordinary outdoor swimming pool. The point is that the temperature of the water, and its surroundings, needs to be low.
Here’s a list of benefits winter swimming brings and some tips on how to do it properly to boot.
It gives your immune system a significant boost
Numerous studies have shown that cold water affects your immune system very positively.
Cold water entices the body to produce more white blood cells. That’s its natural reaction to the sudden temperature change. If you keep on practicing winter swimming, your body slowly learns how to activate its defense systems more efficiently and quickly.
This is the most important trait of a healthy and resilient immune system – adaptability. People who plunge themselves into cold water on a regular basis get sick less easily and frequently.
It’s a natural stress reliever and mental health booster
Depression sufferers all around the globe can benefit from the ancient practice of winter swimming. Studies have shown that people afflicted with depression that keep a consistent routine of ice water swimming experience long term relief from negative emotions.
By putting stress and shock on your body, ice swimming relieves the mind and soothes the nerves. That’s why people who do it regularly are more calm, both physically and mentally. Even breathing patterns change for people who do it – a deep breath cycle does wonders for a person’s mental health.
There are some indications that ice water swimming even improves concentration and memory function.
Every time we conquer a fear or accomplish a feat in someone else’s company, that creates a special kind of bond with them. That’s why having a partner, or a whole community, while ice swimming creates the perfect backdrop to creating lasting relationships. You will have seen each other at your most vulnerable, and have conquered a great thing together. There are many communities that gather around ice water swimming, notably ones meeting up in outdoor fiberglass pools in Minnesota.
Beyond that, socializing is a human need, on par with sustenance and procreation. Any place we can get to meet friends is great for our lives, and sharing an interest in a niche behavior is a great way to connect. Even when not doing it at the moment, ice swimming will boost your confidence enough to make meeting new friends much easier.
It’s an incredible way to burn calories
You may have heard that drinking icy cold water can help you lose weight. It’s not really that easy, unfortunately. On the flipside, immersing your entire body in cold water does the trick quite well, actually.
Your heart goes into a kind of positive shock when plunging into cold water. Because body temperature goes down, the heart has to beat faster and stronger to keep it from going down to unhealthy levels. This is an amazingly efficient calorie burner.
It offers a natural high like no other
You may have heard of runner’s high – a state that long distance runners get in after they’ve been trekking for a while. Well, it turns out that cold water swimming does the same thing!
Because it brings the body closer to its pain barrier, cold water swimming entices the brain to produce endorphins, also known as ‘happy hormones.’ In this day and age, endorphins are not easy to obtain naturally.
How to start cold water swimming
Here are a few tips and tricks on how to include this very healthy habit in your exercise routine.
- Start taking cold showers. Ditch the hot showers in favor of cold ones. That’s the best way to prepare your body for what it’s about to go through. While you won’t be putting your body through the stress of actually swimming, it’ll be a great preparation for the real thing.
- Get a neoprene wetsuit. That’s the correct attire for going ice water swimming. Since you will be sharing the water with other vessels like jet skis and boats, it’s a good idea to get one in a vibrant color. Also, make sure it’s flexible enough that you can swim in it.
- Don’t skip the warm-up. It’s a really bad idea to start any sort of physical activity without warming up first, and ice water swimming is no exception. The dry warm up will prepare your body for the intense exercise it is about to go through.
- Do a slow entry. Jumping straight into the water can be a very dangerous idea – the shock on the heart and the rest of the body may be too large to handle.
- Have a swimming buddy. In addition to company being a great thing for our mental health, having someone out there with you is a safety precaution. If something were to go wrong, it’s always good to have someone looking out for you.
- Don’t stray too far from the shore. If you’re going ice swimming in a lake or at sea, swim parallel to the shore. That way, you’ll always be close to getting out if you feel you can’t handle any more.
Ice water swimming isn’t a new invention – people have been doing it for centuries, even millennia. And while our ancestors had known from experience that it does the body good, we contemporary folk have science backing those claims up.
So, if you’re up for having a new challenge in your life that’s also actively healthy and good for you – winter swimming is the way to go!