The Benefits of Swimming in Winter

All About Ice Swimming, the Extreme Sport Where Athletes Compete in  Sub-Freezing Water | SELF

Swimming in cold water — also known as winter swimming or ice swimming —describes swimming outdoors (lake, river, sea, or swimming pool), mainly during the winter or in the colder or polar regions.  This particular form of endurance sport is becoming increasingly popular.  Cold water swimming can be used as a general umbrella term for cold to ice-cold water swimming.  Swimming in winter implies specifically that it must be that season.  Colder countries can be synonymous with ice swimming when the water is frozen over because ice swimming explicitly requires the ice to break.  Canada has recently adopted the sport of ice swimming. As winter experts we will be leaders in this new endurance sport. But is swimming in cold water good for you? 

Taking the Plunge

In certain parts of the world, such as Finland, Poland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, cold water swimming is practiced regularly as a pastime known as winter swimming.  In addition, in Eastern Europe and Russia, swimming in cold water is part of religious celebrations.  So naturally, many stories about the benefits of this pastime prompted research into the effects of cold water on the body. 

These reports come from these northern countries on various topics such as adaptation to the cold, changes in the metabolism, effects on the immune system, hormones, or body heat regulation.  Events in which large numbers of people swim over a relatively short distance in cold water in winter can also be called classic winter swimming. 

Canada is newer to swimming in the winter, but it is becoming more and more popular there too.  It is, healthy and the pool is readily available in the backyard.  Venture out to see what the fuss is all about.

Beat the Winter Blues

Winter Swimming in Estonia | IMPOSSIBLE ®

Any enthusiast will tell you that the joys of swimming in winter are plentiful.  There is nothing like immersing yourself in cold open water in the ocean, a creek or your backyard.  You will reap the health benefits of swimming in cold water – they are numerous.  But is swimming in winter good for you?   

Do you want to lose weight? 

If you swim outdoors, your body has to work hard simply to stay warm.  As a result, you burn more calories.  If you are health conscious at all you will love what winter swimming does to your waistline.  Cold water swimming burns more calories than your regular workout because your body has to fight to stay warm.

Get that heart pumping!

When we leap into cold water, our heart is signalled to pump extra blood to our organs due to the drastic temperature difference. As a result, circulation improves and toxins are pushed out of our system more easily, resulting in brighter skin and a healthy glow.

Working out chemically alters the brain. We know that exercise boosts the synthesis of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals. This improves our mood and helps to tackle depression and anxiety.

Stress is on vacation

The natural motion of swimming can help any stressful feelings fade as you focus on your body’s movement.  It is almost a meditation exercise as you glide through the water.  Furthermore, when you swim in ice water, you feel a stinging sensation on your skin, which your body combats by producing even more endorphins.  This results in an extreme feeling of euphoria when you are finished swimming.   

If you take to the open water regularly, you will find that your sleep is improved.  This is because cold water stimulates the nervous system, which helps your body rest and repair itself.  Promoting a feeling of relaxation and calm, swimming in the winter results in a better night’s sleep. 

Body and mind

People with rheumatism, fibromyalgia, or asthma who swim in winter report that they generally experience helpful pain relief, less fatigue, and a better mood.  So, there are both mental and physical benefits of this pastime practiced globally.

Winter swimmers are overall healthier than non-swimmers.  Some claim to demonstrate a reduction in respiratory infections in people who swim in winter.  This finding is supported by what is reported in other parts of the world.   The benefits of swimming in cold water are well known.  

Keep on swimming!

Winter swimming has untold health benefits, one of  which is improved circulation.  Our bodies slowly adapt to the cold water with repeated exposure.  Jump into your pool today and begin to love this unique sport. Because swimming in the winter is so good for you  it is gaining popularity in Canada.  Unlock the secrets the rest of the world already knows, that it boosts the white blood cell count in your blood.  This has many benefits.  It also allows you manage in the cold better.  So, over time, your body becomes better at activating its defences.

Is Winter Swimming Safe?

Kate Steels, Ice Swimming Hall Of Fame Honor Swimmer – World Open Water  Swimming Association

The short answer is yes.  As long as you are healthy and careful, winter swimming is safe.  And the wellness benefits far outweigh the dangers.  There are dozens of places worldwide where winter swimming is part of daily life, so we know more about its impact on our health.  In addition, we understand the effects of cold water on the body. 

It is crucial to get your body ready for the cold water gradually.  Make sure that you do not swim alone in case there are problems.  One risk of swimming in the winter is cold shock.  As a result, you may lose muscle tone or suffer cognitive impairment.  If your body temperature is too low, there is a possibility of hypothermia, another danger of swimming in the winter.   It is necessary not to swim in water that is too cold. 

One day at a time

To acclimate to the cold water, you must practise.  Ideally, this should be done slowly and often, two to three times a week.  Gradually increase the time you spend each day.  Stop when you need a break.  Set goals for yourself before you try swimming in winter. 

Water that cold can cause numbness and pain, particularly in the hands and feet.  It is essential to monitor yourself closely, stopping if you need to.   If you swim in ice water, wearing boots and gloves will increase safety and comfort.  This is one of the few adverse reactions of the body to cold water.  There are so many more positive benefits.  Just be safe and heed the signs that your body needs a break. 

You may want to learn how to swim in the summer or in an indoor pool first.  Keep attending your lessons until you have become comfortable enough to swim in the warmth first, then try the cold.  Natural bodies of water can be freezing, so you may want to stay in the pool in the backyard, where you know the temperature at first.  

A New Pastime

The world knows how enjoyable swimming in cold water is, and Canada is catching up.  Swimming pools are a terrific investment, and it would be wonderful if we could use them year-round.  So, if you have never done it, break out the wetsuit and give it a try.  We have discovered many positive benefits because swimming in winter is already popular in so many places.  It improves overall health, reduces stress, and increases happiness.  This pastime will become as popular as swimming in the summer before long.  So don’t miss out on the fun!