From the outside, the popularity of cold water swimming and figures like Wim Hoff can seem rather impenetrable. The idea of willingly entering into cold, even frozen, water seems bizarre due to the extreme discomfort many expect to experience. One, however, only needs to chat with such participants in the cold water swimming community to learn that the reality of the experience is much different.
In addition to an overall positive experience, there are also a number of extra benefits associated with cold water swimming. Proponents of the activity come from a variety of backgrounds too, with some seeking to challenge themselves while others pursue the chilly plunge for the benefit of their own health. To show you some of the reasons behind the craze, as well as share potential inspirations for your own experience, here are five health benefits of cold water swimming.
One of the most frequently celebrated benefits of cold water swimming is its impact on stress management. When submerging oneself in cold water, the low temperatures trigger a stress response, prompting the body to produce cortisol. By experiencing this and on a regular basis too, individuals can begin building up their tolerance to stress, becoming more familiar with its effect on the body and responding with better control.
There is suggested evidence that cold water swimmers have better stronger immune systems as a result of the repeated exposure to microstress of low temperatures, to which the body produces white blood cells that, in turn, protect the body outside the water too. While there’s still some debate about the exact science behind this, individual accounts seem promising.
In the same way that putting an ice pack on a swelling reduces inflammation, taking an icy dip can help with swollen joints, bruising, and even muscle stress, allowing them to recover faster. This is because, at low temperatures, blood shifts to protect central organs, alleviating the stress experienced elsewhere in the body. This is why many will even pursue swimming without a wetsuit so as to maximize their body’s exposure.
Better Hair And Skin
The shifting of blood around the body helps to stimulate the skin. Repeated exposure to cold water temperatures, coupled with the minerals found in salt water, can help to improve skin health over time with some swimmers referring to the results as a swimmer’s glow. There are also reports that the same exposure to cold water helps to keep hair looking great too, although it’s perhaps more likely to be the wild and salty waters in this case.
While there is a degree of fear that is associated with cold water swimming, one that sees even experienced swimmers hesitate before jumping in, the elation that is experienced when leaving the water is one that is not found elsewhere.
Many cold water swimmers will leave the water feeling great, experiencing the post-swim high that is often described, something that is actually an individual’s body releasing significant amounts of dopamine and prompts the body to feel happy.