Is Wild Swimming Good For You?
Posted by Alex Clasper
Wild swimming has certainly become a bit of a craze over the past couple of years, with many people getting addicted to the buzz that comes with taking a dip in the great outdoors. Is it just a fad or is wild swimming good for you? Well, much more than just a fad, wild swimming can actually have significant health benefits, boosting both physical and mental wellbeing.
Why is wild swimming good for you? This is thanks to the following physical and mental health benefits it provides:
In most outdoor swimming locations it’s guaranteed that the water’s going to be cold. While this might put you off at first, immersing yourself safely in cold water actually has huge mental health benefits. The feeling of the cold forces us to focus on our breathing, bringing us back into the present moment. Swimming in cold water regularly is said to boost mental resilience by reducing the body’s stress response to the cold, which then translates into better responses to daily stresses on land. In addition to this, being surrounded by nature when swimming does wonders to soothe the mind in and of itself.
It’s very unusual to see a group of wild swimmers leaving the water without a smile on their faces! This is all thanks to the endorphins that are released when you go wild swimming. Swimming, like all other exercises releases happy hormones that help to reduce stress and anxiety, leaving us feeling good. In addition to this, a study undertaken by scientists in Prague found that cold water immersion can boost dopamine levels (the happy hormone) by 530 per cent.
When looking at the question of “why is wild swimming good for you”, you might be surprised to hear that one of the key health benefits of this activity is its role in reducing inflammation. Research is still ongoing, however studies have shown that swimming regularly in cold water enhances the body’s anti-inflammatory response. This is beneficial in reducing the symptoms of conditions associated with inflammation, such as various allergies and depression.
Boosting The Immune System
Did you know that wild swimming regularly could also help you fend off bugs? Studies have suggested that cold water immersion triggers an increase in white blood cell production which boosts the health of your immune system. Alongside the other physical and mental health benefits that this activity provides, wild swimming could get you feeling generally healthier and happier in yourself.
Improving Circulation & Blood Flow
When you immerse your body in cold water, your blood rushes to surround your vital organs. This stimulation encourages your heart to pump faster and your capillaries and veins to constrict, speeding up blood flow and circulation, and strengthening your circulatory system. Improved circulation also flushes toxins out of your system, giving you a healthier and glowing complexion. Salt water exfoliates the skin and contains antibacterial properties, so if you take a tip in the sea, you may also notice your skin feeling soft and glowy when you leave the water.
Giving You A Workout
Going for a swim is an excellent form of exercise that uses every muscle in your body, whilst working your cardiovascular system. It’s also low impact, meaning that you’re not putting excess strain on your bones and joints. If you’re swimming in cold water, you’ll also be burning extra calories as your body has to work harder to keep your temperature up. Make sure you’ve got a waterproof changing robe to step into when you get out of the water to help you warm up (and an insulated bottle filled with your favourite hot beverage course).
Be Mindful Of The Risks Of Wild Swimming
So we’ve established that the answer to the question of “is wild swimming good for you” is a definite “yes!”. However, before you dive straight into this wonderful activity and experiencing all its benefits, it's important to be aware of the risks and safety precautions to take. Seek the advice of experienced wild swimmers and clue yourself up on key safety steps and all the gear that you need. Our beginner’s guide to open water swimming and our cold water swimming tips should help point you in the right direction with this, and there is also plenty of information published by organised swim groups like The Outdoor Swimming Society.
If you have any further questions about wild swimming, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Red team.