Swimming in ice-cold water is an adventure for which many will not sign up. If you approach a person and ask them to go for a dip with you in some semi-frozen water, chances are they’ll think you’re crazy. But, the benefits of cold water swimming are many. Studies conducted in this field have yielded some really interesting results. When healthy individuals undertake ice water or cold water swimming, they do experience certain health benefits and even find mental peace (Knechtle et al., 2020).
Why take up cold water swimming?
Many case studies have pointed towards the benefits of swimming in ice water, even during winter. People swimming regularly in cold water, especially during the winter, have felt themselves become mentally stronger, less fatigued, and definitely more active (Huttunen et al., 2004). Accounts given by many individuals have also pointed out the ways swimming in ice water has benefited them. People who have undergone painful operations often find the numbing effect of the cold water soothing, allowing them to move their body more freely; this speeds up the recovery process without compromising mobility.
Cold water swimming improves the immune system
A study from 2011 showed that swimming in cold water helps increase the white blood cell count of the body, as the body being subjected to unnatural climatic conditions triggers white blood cell production. The natural immune system thus gets a boost that helps you ward off diseases like the common cold.
Enhances body circulation
Another benefit of subjecting your body to temperatures not considered normal by the brain is that circulation is doubled. Your heart and the circulatory system have to work harder to keep you awake and provide mobility to your limbs. Bonus: with enhanced blood circulation, the look and overall health of your skin will improve!
Burns more calories
When you have your heart beating double-time, your metabolic rate increases to support the energy consumption. This further helps you burn more calories. If losing weight and getting fit is on your agenda, you should definitely consider ice water swimming as an effective form of exercise.
Gives an adrenaline rush
Being an adrenaline junkie is way better than turning to substance abuse. That said, instead of going rogue and driving rashly, swimming in cold water is a much better alternative. When your body is ‘fighting’ to survive the cold water, your brain releases endorphins, those natural feel-good hormones. It has been proven via various scientific experiments that working out provides a ‘natural high’ with the release of hormones like endorphins. Ice water swimming is a workout on a stronger scale. What you might achieve running for 2 hours, you might achieve swimming for 30 to 45 minutes in cold water.
Stress is a constant companion in our lives. Work, studies, and life in general are often stressful. To beat this stress, you should consider swimming in ice water. Remember the natural high of the adrenaline rush? That will help you beat stress, mental fatigue, and overall getting depressed. Ice water swimming might not be a panacea to mental illness, but it can definitely provide some relief if you’re feeling down in the dumps.
Things to remember if you are an amateur
When you are trying the activity for the first time, go slow. Start with temperatures that are closer to room temperature. You can start with water with temperatures ranging from 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help you get acclimatized to how your body will react to the cold water. Beginners, in their bid to jump into the “deep end”, often suffer from hypothermia because they underestimate the power the natural elements have.
Make sure you swim with experienced people and never swim under the influence of any substances. Cold water numbs the body and unless you keep moving, you can suffer hypothermia and eventually drown. Make sure you wear a wetsuit for your first dip. Once you have gotten the hang of the activity, you can go for more freezing waters, but always stay attuned to your body rhythm and stay in a group.
Cold water swimming is an activity that has many benefits and can be helpful to your overall well-being. You do need to be careful, but soon enough you may find yourself floating in some frozen lake, enjoying the pristine nothingness of the surrounding areas.
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