What are the benefits of Wild Swimming?

As the warmer weather approaches, many of you will be drawn back to the water. Maybe you have been like our resident squirrels and been hibernating, waiting for the day that the sun breaks through and the buds of spring splash their colour.

It was a joy for me to come across these gems as I took a walk in March after a morning spent in school.

So what can being in and around water and nature bring to your life, to your health and wellbeing and to your social support system?

There have been many articles, reports and documentaries made in recent years highlighting the physical benefits of cold water immersion. What are the physical but perhaps more importantly, the mental benefits of cold water immersion?

It prepares your body both physically and mentally to deal with stress.
  • It stimulates the “fight or flight” response, releasing adrenaline into your body.
  • Adrenal glands in turn release cortisol, a stress hormone.
  • Maintaining this state for a number of hours.
  • Your body quickly adapts to continued exposure.
  • This can be done in a controlled, structured and progressive way.
  • You develop the ability to control your breath.
  • You develop an ability to control your heart rate.
It can help deal with the physical challenges, experienced by many of us on a daily basis.
  • Cortisol release is maintained and provides;
  • Pain relief for inflammation.
  • Burning calories for hours after the swim session
  • Providing a post swim “high”
Inflammation reduction and “Post Swim High” provide a platform to help deal with depression.
  • Many instances of depression are linked to inflammation.
  • By reducing inflammation, depressive tendencies may be altered.
  • Stress induced by depression can be combated with the experience of cold water immersion.
  • Improvement in mood following each swim and a sustained and gradual reduction in symptoms of depression have been experienced and reported by many swimmers.

“The body is responding with all the stress hormones…you’ll see changes in all of the fight-or-flight biochemical and hormonal responses. It’s raising your heart rate, your ventilation. That’s the thing that makes people say: ‘I feel alive, I feel alert, it wakes me up for the rest of the day.”

Professor Mike Tipton
It has a positive impact on our Mental Wellbeing.
  • Swimmers are finding happiness and support in newly formed communities;
  •  Swimmers can get an enormous sense of achievement by just getting into the water.
  • Folks are encouraged and motivated to get out of the house and involved in an activity.
  • To have an intense physical and social experience surrounded by nature.
  • To experience wonderful dawns and dusks and amazing scenery.
  • Every swim is life affirming in itself, different from a previous experience – even if it is in the same venue, with the same folk!

“We’re seeing anecdotal evidence of people experiencing changes to their mental and physical health, with improvements in conditions like your heart rate, your ventilation. That’s the thing that makes people say: ‘I feel alive, I feel alert, it wakes me up for the rest of the day.”

Dr Heather Massey
Increasing research into the positive effects on;
  • Confidence
  • Motivation
  • Self Worth
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Alzheimers
  • Menopausal Symptoms
Time for reflection?

I have also had a number of new swimmers come to Introductory Sessions on the advice of their GP as a potential way of addressing some of the symptoms of “Long Covid”. As scientific evidence catches up with antidotal evidence we may well find our wonderful Scottish Coastal and Inland waters returning to the usage the had in their “Heyday”

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