Why wild swimming is good for you

Wild Swimming - It's not as nuts as you think!

Tobi Carver - 22nd May 2020

Recently there has been an upsurge in the popularity of ‘Wild Swimming’. So much so, that a swimmer enjoying a bracing dip in Cumbrias’ Blee Tarn features in the opening credits of the BBC’s Countryfile.

So what is wild swimming? why is it so popular? is it good for me? and can I do it?

Well here at The Day That, we like to ponder such questions…

For those who are unsure, ‘Wild Swimming’ is simply swimming outdoors and in open water i.e. in rivers, lakes and the sea. Now I spent a lot of my time as a child on a small island, on the Scillies and the rest surrounded by the sea in St Ives and we just called it swimming, but ‘wild’ swimming has seen a growth in the number of people enjoying it in recent years. It is something I enjoy often, sometimes even after a TDT dawn shoot. Sometimes people like to do it in front of the camera while I’m on a shoot. Sometimes they forget to wear clothes! 

Wild Swimming has it’s own equipment, such as wetsuits specially designed to be supple enough in the right areas to allow you to swim well, without feeling restricted in your movements by the suit.

WHY SO POPULAR?

Well the main appeal for many is to be out in the open, enjoying the environment in as natural and clean a way as possible and to feel sense of freedom that being in nature brings, are all compelling reasons to give it a try.

IS IT GOOD FOR YOU?
 
The activity of swimming, the body’s reaction to the cold water and the mental health benefits of being outdoors mean the simple answer is ‘yes’.
 
Cold water dips have long been recommended as a way to strengthen the mental constitution and physical state. The Romans enjoyed their cold water plunge pools, the Vikings their icy water pools and snow-angels – of course both after a hot sauna, however, more recently the Victorians were very fond of cold water immersion.
What’s not to like about such immersion which soothes muscle aches, relieves depression, boosts the immune system and helps to provide an endorphin high that elates both your senses and you mood?
 
Swim England espouse the benefits of regular cold water dips including the fact that cold water stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is responsible for repairing the body, which reduces muscle aches and also help relax you, which should deliver a better night’s sleep. The cold also helps boost your circulation, pumping blood through your capillaries, arteries and veins, and increased blood flow means increased healing and quicker recovery. 
 
Repeated exposure to cold helps adapts us to it as well as releasing the endorphins which help us cope with pain. In terms of increasing you metabolism swimming in cold water simply makes your body work harder to keep warm. It does this by convert your body’s brown fat into heat to keep your core temperature stable.
 
Cold water increases the stress on both mind and body. The body has to work hard to keep you warm and responsive but so does your mind. You have to mentally work hard to safely fulfill the requirements of the activities while you brain is slowly becoming treacle due to the cold and your responses slower.
 
All of this is obviously good for you body mind and soul.
 
CAN I DO IT?
 
Of course some people simple won’t physically be able to but on the whole if you reasonably fit and health why not? There are a few things to remember though in order to remain safe and enjoy yourself.
 
Remember that while the stress cold water immersion puts on the body can be incredible beneficial, there is the risk of ‘cold water shock’ if you don’t acclimatise your body to the cold.
 
If you’ve ever jumped into a cold pool, or even under a cold shower, you know that sharp shock and intake of breath as you first feel the cold for the first time. This is a very mild cold water shock. If you dive in quickly this can led to a difficulty getting you breath or in worst cases  can over stress you heart and cause a cardiac arrest.
 
But acclimatising is the key and its very simple just slowly enter the water giving you body time to adjust to the cold. Swim regularly and your body remembers the cold and each time you get in its a little less of a shock.
 
Preserve what body heat you have, wear a wetsuit, booties and gloves. Make sure you have warm stuff for after your swim, don’t hang around, change first then chat. Remember whack a hat on straight away after finishing your swim, as you lost a staggering amount of heat through your head, have a hot drink but don’t be tempted to have a hot shower to soon after your swim. Warming yourself to quickly can actually cause your core temperature to drop.
 
And it may seem simple but remember to only dive under water if you are 100% certain there are not underwater obstruction you might impale yourself on.
 
Be aware of your surrounding and learn about them. For instance currents both in rivers and the sea, or tidal rips and wave drag. If you are starting out there are open water swimming instructors across the country who can teach you all you might need to know to get started safely.
FINALLY
 
One more benefit of repeated cold water immersion, is that far from suppressing it, cold water actually increases your libido. Cold water boosts oestrogen and testosterone production, adding an edge to fertility and libido and increased libido makes you more confidence, gives you a higher self-esteem, and enhances your mood.
 
So after you reading this, and you all starting to enjoying the extra health benefits of Wild Swimming, our TDT photographic team will be working extra hard to capture that perfect first dawn for the coming influx of ‘Wild Swimming’ babies. 
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