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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Cold Water Swimming - A Natural High

Last weekend I went cold water swimming. I went on a safety course initially and when the instructor told us what can happen to your body, I wondered why I was doing it! However, after my body had gotten over the shock of the temperature and I was immersed in the water, I started to enjoy it. Afterwards I felt a sense of exhilaration. It was great standing around wrapped up warm with a hot drink, chatting to others and sharing how we felt. It was like a natural high feeling. I could understand how you could get hooked and decided to explore the health benefits more. I would recommend it!


Improved circulation: When your body first enters cold water, it has a physiological reaction. The blood rushes through your body to surround your vital organs and keep them warm, so your heart pumps blood more efficiently through all your vessels. Your whole body is being supplied with the oxygen and nutrients it needs through your blood.


Anti-depressant: Swimming in cold water has also been shown to have a positive effect on the mental side of humans and can even be anti-depressive. Regular winter swimming led to an improvement in general well-being in swimmers who suffered from rheumatism, fibromyalgia, or asthma.Other theories suggest that regular open water swimming also results in a postswim ‘high’, triggered by the release of beta-endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.


Increased immunity: There is rising evidence that winter swimmers are more resistant to certain illnesses and infections, experiencing them less frequently and more mildly. The incidence of infectious diseases of the upper respiratory tract is 40% lower in winter swimmers compared to a control group. Furthermore, it has been shown that swimming in cold water has an impact on immune-specific heamatology.


It burns calories: Brown fat is a type of body fat that helps control your body's temperature. This fat burns calories in order to create heat. In cooler temperatures brown fat must burn more calories to keep you warm. Also, when your body is cold, your blood moves closer to your body's core in order to keep your vital organs warm. This speeds up the work of your heart and lungs, which in turn burns more calories.




References:


Van Tulleken C., Tipton M., Massey H., Harper C.M. Open water swimming as a treatment for major depressive disorder. BMJ Case Rep. 2018;2018 doi: 10.1136/bcr-2018-225007.[PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

Huttunen P., Kokko L., Ylijukuri V. Winter swimming improves general well-being. Int. J. Circumpolar Health. 2004;63:140–144. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v63i2.17700. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6112379/

Srámek P, Simecková M, Janský L, et al.. Human physiological responses to immersion into water of different temperatures. Eur J Appl Physiol 2000;81:436–42. 10.1007/s004210050065 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

Hirvonen J, Lindeman S, Matti J, et al.. Plasma catecholamines, serotonin and their metabolites and beta-endorphin of winter swimmers during one winter. Possible correlations to psychological traits. Int J Circumpolar Health 2002;61:363–72. 10.3402/ijch.v61i4.17494 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

Suzuki K, Maekawa K, Minakuchi H, et al.. Responses of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and pain threshold changes in the orofacial region upon cold pressor stimulation in normal volunteers. Arch Oral Biol 2007;52:797–802. 10.1016/j.archoralbio.2007.01.008 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]



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