Britain’s newest form of therapy…

Britain’s newest form of therapy…

Cold water swimming has become a form of therapy in recent years, with people taking part in cold plunges, swimming in icy open water lakes and even running water rivers. But what are the benefits of plunging underwater at ice cold temperatures? Here is all the information that you need in order to be tempted to take a dip in the cold waters of the UK.

Swimming in cold water has become more popular in recent years, with searches increasing by 700% according to Google Trends in 2023. The physical and mental benefits have made it a popular activity among outdoor enthusiasts who seek a unique and refreshing way to engage with nature.

Despite its recent spike in popularity, cold water swimming is no new concept with celebrities like Whim Hoff hailing its benefits for many years even before his BBC show, Freeze the Fear With Whim Hoff.

Amongst the celebrities has arisen hundreds of cold water swimming, dipping and immersion groups across Great Britain like the @sheffieldippers, making it an accessible activity for those willing to get involved.

After speaking to Tom Clancy and Josh from the Sheffield Dippers, they felt that they were reaping the social rewards from their Saturday morning swims.

Anecdotally there may be evidence a plenty, however, is there science to dipping at the crack of dawn?

According to the British Heart Foundation, cold water swimming ‘can improve blood pressure and fat levels in the blood’ when practised regularly as our heart works harder in colder water than on land.

Furthermore, the RNLI lists several physical health-related advantages including:

Outdoor swimming is an efficient way to burn calories and improve muscular strength too; in October 2022, Dr Mark Harper, OSS Cold Water Doctor and author of Chill: The Cold Water Swim Cure, and Scottish MP Fulton MacGregor highlighted these physical advantages and began pushing to have the health benefits of outdoor swimming recognised and supported at a national level.

The RNLI  do warn of the potential dangers of the cold plunge, as the average Irish and UK sea temperatures are just 12°C and rivers are colder – even in the summer.  They recommend if you areswimming during the colder months or for extended periods, to wear a wetsuit of ‘appropriate thickness’. Furthermore, the safest way to wild swim is at an open water swimming site, with a club or on a lifeguarded beach. Regardless of location, you must ensure that you do your research by ‘checking hazard signage’. Finding an ‘organised swim group’ in your local community is also useful.

What are the mental health benefits?

There are a range of psychological benefits too, Swim Secure UK suggests that you gain ‘an increased tolerance to stress’, as submerging yourself creates a stress reaction in the body, similar to that of a scary or tense situation. This stressful reaction recedes however, as you adjust to the temperature.

They also claim that you can boost your self esteem, as forcing the mind to stay in the freezing water improves mental strength. ‘By becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable’ you increase your mental and physical resilience’.

There is even early research conducted by the BBC which is investigating whether it can help slow down dementia; and some reports suggest cold water swimming may help with chronic pain.

A unique, yet empowering activity, cold water swimming left Nine To Alive (insert backlink) feeling its benefits. With its rising popularity across the country and in mainstream media, more people are discovering how the chill of the water can bring warmth to their everyday lives.

If you are searching for an icy thrill and a new challenge to test your limits why not consider cold water swimming?

Always remember to proceed with caution, respect your limits, and follow the advice of organisations like the RNLI to avoid any unwanted and unnecessary danger.

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