Swimming in cold water may seem like an activity that only athletes, or those with the strongest constitution, can handle. But the fact is, there are many benefits to cold water swimming, health related and otherwise. However, there are also a number of risks to consider.
Here we look at the pros and cons of swimming in cold water and analyse its physiology, so you can decide for yourself if this is a pastime for you.
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What are the benefits of cold water swimming?
Cold water swimming has in recent times become a popular phenomenon. But is cold water swimming good for you? What exactly do people get out of it?
1. A kick start for the metabolism
Because our bodies need to work hard to keep us warm while we swim in cold water, we tend to burn more calories than swimming in warm water.
2. Natural pain relief
There’s very positive health effects of swimming in cold water on the body. Cold water has the effect of narrowing the arteries, which can decrease inflammation and soothe sore muscles.
3. A boost for the immune system
Studies have shown that cold water swimming can boost the immune system. As the body reacts to the cold water, more infection-fighting white blood cells are produced. What’s more, entering cold water sparks a release of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormone as an added benefit.
4. Enhances lymphatic circulation
As cold water forces the lymphatic vessels to contract, so lymphatic fluids are pumped more efficiently around the body, helping to increase the flow of toxins back to the organs responsible for eliminating them.
5. Reduces stress
There is evidence to show that cold water swimming can reduce stress. Scientists have found that, as the body learns to react less to the physical stress of getting into cold water, the mind will begin to react less to emotional stress. What’s more, entering cold water sparks a release of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormone.
6. Generally boosts feelings of well-being
As cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, so you tend to feel an overall sense of well-being and tendency to ‘rest and digest’ rather than ‘panic and run’.
What are the cons of cold water swimming?
Whilst the benefits of cold water swimming will, for many, outweigh the risks, it is important to look at both the pros and cons of swimming in cold water.
1. Cold water shock
Cold water shock, according to Mike Tipton, professor of human and applied physiology at the University of Portsmouth, kills about 400 people in the UK every year. Stepping into water that’s well below body temperature can cause you to gasp and even hyperventilate. This can increase blood pressure and heart rate. It is therefore vital to properly prepare for cold water swimming by gradually letting your body get used to the temperature, rather than jumping straight in.
2. Cold incapacitation
When looking at the pros and cons of swimming in cold water, it is important to consider the risk of cold incapacitation. As your body gets cold, blood is directed to your core, leading to a reduced flow of blood to your arms and legs. This results in weakened limbs, which can make it challenging to swim.
Hypothermia sets in when the body temperature drops to below 35°C. It can be fatal, but is not as common in cold water swimmers as cold water shock or incapacitation. Mild hypothermia can be treated by removing wet clothing and drinking a hot drink and having something to eat so the body has sufficient fuel to warm itself up.
4. Drop in body temperature
Once you leave the water after cold water swimming, you may experience a sudden drop in body temperature. This may lead to shivering, and is caused by the blood vessels opening up and warm blood from your core cooling too rapidly. To avoid this, be sure to remove wet swimming gear immediately after leaving the water, wrap up in something warm and dry, and drink a hot drink. Avoid jumping into a hot shower, as this will be too much of a shock for the body.
Wanting to enjoy cold water swimming at home?
Looking at the pros and cons of cold water swimming, you may feel an inclination to give it a try. But how to achieve the cold water swimming temperature?
What if you could alter the temperature of the water to suit your particular level of tolerance? And to suit the time of year and outside temperature too?
This is all achievable with a swim spa.
Swim spas are smaller than an average swimming pool, but larger than a hot tub. A strong current in the water makes it possible to swim on the spot, without having to turn around. With a swim spa, you get to control the temperature to your personal preference. So, if you do want to enjoy the benefits of cold water swimming, you can do so, and gradually get used to a lower temperature over time. You can also adjust the temperature to suit the current climate.
At Hydropool Surrey, we offer a quality swim spa range, including the AquaSport swim spa for training athletes, and the AquaTrainer swim spa for the leisure swimmer. Both models double up as hot tubs, with seating and massage jets. So you can take advantage of the best of both worlds.
Why not get in touch and make an appointment to try a swim spa out for yourself at our purpose-built showroom in Addlestone, Surrey? Our expert team will be happy to help you replicate the benefits of cold water swimming with your swim spa.