In all my years of living in New Jersey and swimming in the Atlantic ocean waters, it’s prepared me to be adapted to cold water. You might be thinking, “Why would I ever want to freeze in cold water by swimming in it?” Well, if you’re careful, you won’t freeze but just feel an initial shock that your body has yet to adjust to. Also, with the beauty of the outdoors, you can easily find access to a body of cold water, especially if it’s clean.
Cold water swimming is more than just a challenge (if you’ve heard of “polar plunge”), but it is a way of getting health benefits. It’s also a therapeutic method for both mental and physical health. It’s not uncommon many people with diseases and those trying to improve their immune system are trying out cold water swimming or doing hydrotherapy also known as water therapy. I, being, one of them as I have built up the resilience over time to face cold water and I do enjoy cold showers.
Just like the extreme temperatures of soaking into a hot spring, the other extreme of being in cold water has its own benefits.
Although this blog post is about going over the health benefits of cold water swimming, I don’t go over on how to acclimate to cold water like this blog post can help with, and as you may know, very cold temperatures can deem dangerous if you aren’t aware of the temperatures and listening to how your body feels.
I do want to highlight what health benefits you can get from cold water swimming to help you decide if maybe it’s worth taking a dip in that cold water after all! If you don’t have access to a body of water, doing cold showers has the same benefits as cold water swimming and taking cold showers can help you achieve these health benefits.
1. Cold water swimming boosts the immune system.
Who doesn’t want a better immune system? Because we may feel our body shocked from the coldness, cold water activates the white blood cell count and the white blood cell is used to protect you from infection. It also activates defenses for illness.
2. Cold water swimming is good for coping with stress.
This is a benefit for mental health. The cold water can decrease the stress-inducing hormones known as cortisol and noradrenaline, and it is considered relief for those cold water swimmers who struggle with depression (in fact, many cold water swimmers are known to be relaxed and there are stories of them battling mental health issues). Exposure to cold water could help you work on your breathing and meditation, which are effective ways to manage stress and anxiety.
After swimming, you may feel this rush of “high” and that’s because the chemical that regulates mood known as dopamine is released. There’s actually a non-profit organization called Mental Health Swims that organizes cold swimming in Britain.
3. Cold water swimming can help your metabolism and burn calories.
If you’re looking for a way to lose weight, surprisingly cold water can help. When brown fat, known as the fat cells, burns, it creates heat and that can target to burn fat. Not only that, but the cold water can cause your heart to pump faster (therefore, it’s not safe to go in cold water if you have heart issues), causing the body to work harder to keep you warm.
4. Cold water swimming can help you with your sore muscles/inflammation.
Cold water resets the sympathetic nervous system and can reduce inflammation, which is ideal for someone like me who struggles with chronic illness and often has muscle and joint pain. After a workout, going into cold water can help the muscles relax and repair itself. The cold water can also help numb the pain if you feel your muscles in pain.
5. Cold water swimming can help increase circulation.
As you take a dip into cold water, the shock will help put your circulatory system into overdrive, so you’re helping to force blood to your skin surface from the veins, arteries, and capillaries.
6. Cold water swimming can improve your hair and skin.
Cold water can tighten the blood flow which is beneficial to give your skin a healthy glow. It also won’t dry out the sebum layer that our hair needs as a natural lubricant barrier to provide protection and over time, that can strengthen your hair cuticles.
Have you ever taken a swim or a shower in cold water? If so, did you automatically feel a difference in how you feel or your health?