The sun hits the icy waters of the bay with a bright sparkle, causing the little icicles on the dock to twinkle like diamonds. A crowd of warmly dressed people gather around as a group of swimmers in wet-suits prepare to take a dip in the ocean. Someone checks his weather app, to confirm that the temperature is a brisk 40 degrees. Are these swimmers crazy? Why would anyone get into the water on such a cold day? The answers are many, but they may surprise you. For most of the swimmers, the benefits of swimming on cold days are wonderful and well worth the initial pain.
Cold water swimming has never caught on with the general public, but a daring few have embraced it. Swimmers don’t want to remain indoors throughout the long winter months, and so build up their bodies by learning to swim in cold water even in the chilliest months.
Believe it or not, many researchers have found that cold water swimming can have a tremendous health impact on the human body. Of course, caution must be taken, and careful training must take place, but this type of swimming can be a very good thing.
Swimming alone is a great way to get healthy; swimming in cold water brings an added boost to your body’s entire well being. While not fully researched, the advantages of cold water swimming are many. Here are just five benefits for your health, and they really make you consider this rather unusual sport.
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When you swim in cold water, your body reacts quickly to the stress. The white blood cells begin to increase, your immune system gets ready for a fight, and your body begins to prepare to battle for its life. Cold water swimming is a highly dangerous activity if not done correctly, and your body instinctively knows that in order to stay alive, it has to kick into high gear to maximize your health. The entire immune system becomes strengthened, especially if you take several swims per week in cooler or even cold water. When the body is always at ease, it tends to become soft and not work on staying strong and healthy. You can force your body to work overtime on good health by putting it through a little hardship for a few minutes, like cold water.
What do you do when you are cold? You shiver! Usually that prompts you to go get more clothes on, or a warmer blanket or something to stop the shivering and discomfort of cold. However, shivering is a great way to burn large amounts of calories. Again, you are making your body work to stay healthy, and that works translates to a slimmer, toner person when all is said and done. Don’t overdo it and catch hypothermia, but do allow your shivers to work for you to burn off those extra pesky pounds.
Good Mood Creator
People who swim in the ocean in the winter report feeling an overwhelming sense of euphoria, especially when they come out of the water and begin to dry off. The body has been working so hard to stay warm, that it actually releases endorphins to make you calmer, happier, and more excited, all at the same time. Scientists have even discovered that the testosterone and estrogen levels in males and females are increased by cold water swimming. Sure, the first few minutes in chilly water are tough, but that washed and invigorated feeling afterwards makes up for everything.
Blood Flow Stimulator
When the body is hot, blood rises through the veins toward the outside of the body, allowing you to cool off. When you are cold, your blood increases the flow toward the center of your body, raising your heart rate, stimulating your organs, and just giving that circulatory system a great workout. Many people have jobs that do not encourage blood flow very often. Cold water swimming can remedy those long hours in the car or at the office.
Who doesn’t need more energy? Nothing will wake you up and get you hopping quicker than a five minute (or longer) dip in frigid water. Your heart pumps faster, blood flows better, and mood increases, all working together to make you feel like you can take on the world. Naturally increasing your energy is obviously much better for your health than sugar laden stimulants like coffee or soda. The increase in your energy is a result of the multiple good things going on in your body when you swim in the cold.
So, no, cold water swimming is not for everyone. The dangers of this sport are nearly as many as the benefits, but when done with care, the sport is completely safe. Many people find cold water swimming to be their favorite winter activity, and they have plenty of good advice to anyone who wants to start. The top rules of thumb are: never swim alone, start gradually, get good coaching, dress correctly, and never just dive in.
If you can follow the rules laid out by cold water experts, you may just find yourself enjoying a new sport this cold season. You may also discover that your body enjoys being the best it can be.