With approaching winters, many of us quit swimming as a precautionary measure because most of us falsely believe the old wive’s tale that we will catch a cold or flu if we spend time in the pool or cold sea water in winters.
Science has outweighed this myth and has proved that winter swimming rewards you with a head rush, relieves pain, wraps you with inner warmth, builds body immunity and wards off stress.
Let’s learn how?
Research conducted by the University of Oulu following 100 winter swimmers concluded that blood pressure was lowered, resistance to cold and winter illness increased and also winter swimmers handled stress better than others.
When we dip our body into cold water, stress reaction is triggered activating the sympathetic nervous system. As a result excretion of norepinephrine hormone which is a blood-borne hormone is increased. On the other hand, our parasympathetic nervous system also gets stimulated by exposure to cold water and the process of rest and repair is started. This, in turn, promotes the secretion of serotonin and dopamine, both the hormones ward off anxiety, stress, and depression and render rapture of joy.
Health benefits of swimming in winter
Increases tolerance to cold
Swimming in cold winter water exposes the whole body to cold. More the body is exposed to the cold more tolerance you develop.
2. Boost immune system
Dipping yourself in cold water every day is a good exercise for your immune system. It forces the body to react according to the sudden and drastic temperature change. Over the time our body’s defense mechanism becomes better. Research also shows that cold winter water swimming increases the count of white blood cells and acts as a mild stressor. It activates the body immune system.
3. Boost metabolism and burns more calories
Have you ever noticed why winter season swimmers are thin? Dip in cold water increases the heart rate. To keep the body warm your body works more, metabolic rate increases and you burn more calories than swimming in summer.
4. Enhances blood circulation
Swimming in cold water rushes to your circulation. It pushes blood through arteries, veins, and capillaries. Due to the rapid initial skin cooling, breathing and heart responses trigger, and heart rate and breathing rate increases. With repeated exposure to the cold water you adapt yourself, and eventually, the blood circulation improves particularly to the extremities. This benefits the heart, the body’s muscles and arteries throughout the body.
5. Cardiovascular strengthening
Swimming is an excellent workout for cardiovascular strengthening. Cardiovascular training is more during the winter season. The water is cold. To keep you warm your body works more, blood circulation and heartbeat increases with the time and practice, you get to adapt to it, and your endurance is enhanced.
6. Elevates mood and ward off stress
Endorphins are hormones produced by our brain. They are a natural painkiller. On exposure to cold water, endorphins are produced to combat cold water sting that our skin experiences. It brings us closer to pain barrier. Also, it wards off stress and treats depression.
Cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system that triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin. It has been found that low-level of both neurotransmitters are associated with depression. When they are high, you feel happy, and there is a warm glow on your face with a broad smile.
Improves lung function
Studies show that the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection is comparatively less as compared to the control group. When the whole body is exposed to the cold water for a small duration oxidative stress is produced that improves anti-oxidative protection.
8. Relieves aches and pain
As the blood circulation to the nervous system and muscles, improves along with the release of endorphins, you will notice relief of pain and aches. It also improves your body flexibility and improves posture deformity. Swimming in winter is also part of many rehabilitation programs and physiotherapy.
9. Improves skin health
With the rush of the blood, the impurities are also flushed. Your skin is cleaned, exfoliated and skin complexion and skin tone improves. You will also notice best blush colour after taking a cold water swim.
10. Increases libido
One more old wives tale is that cold water suppresses sexual urge but the truth is opposite. Cold water increases sexual desire. Dip yourself in cold water and it will boost the production of oestrogen and testosterone hormone. Regular practice increases libido and improves fertility.
We hope this article on health benefits of swimming in winter has disembroiled all your related queries.
Apart from above mentioned health benefits winter season swimmers are more confident and independent swimmers. Team ‘Fitso’ highly recommend you to continue your swimming in winters and also encourage your children for it to get fitter, develop a healthy immune system and polish their swimming skills.
For your kids, you may choose an indoor, unheated pool. In the cases, you or your child is using indoor pool make sure you or the child is fully covered before leaving the centre. Especially cover your head as most of the heat is lost through top.
If you are enjoying outdoor winter swimming in the sea, you need to follow some safety tips.
While getting in do not jump into the water at once but divide getting in into five stages. First dip your knees, wait for a few seconds than wade your middle body and when you reach your comfort slide so that the water is over your chest. Before starting swimming give your heart a couple of beat time and then dive in. When you are in the water take breath calmly.
After you get out of the sea strip off immediately, rub yourself and your hands, keep moving or stamp your feet and dry yourself as soon as possible. If it is possible, get a warm shower keeping in mind not to heat up your body too fast. This should be followed by layering yourself and do cover your head.
Before entering pool water or sea in winter make sure you are not alone and check the weather conditions.
Rest at home if you are suffering from any infection to prevent the spread, consume a diet rich in vitamins and probiotics and stay active.
Note- Individuals with chronic blood pressure, heart patients and anyone with asthma, please avoid swimming in winter.