The health benefits of cold water swimming have long been known to those brave enough to take an icy plunge. Anecdotal evidence from year-round swimmers includes having fewer colds, an increase in blood circulation and the fabled 'cold water high' that is experienced once your body has adjusted.
Over the summer of 2020 open water swimming experienced a huge increase in popularity as the hot weather, travel restrictions, lockdown and pool closures enticed a host of new people to try the sport.
And before long, people were experiencing more benefits than just the exercise.
Swimming Is Winning
This group of sea swimmers in Gosport found that a morning swim was helping them cope with the impact of lockdown on their mental health. The 'Win the Morning, Win the Day' group has been attracting 100 swimmers a week and is planning on setting up similar groups around the country.
Dip into the Science
Cold water swimming has also been attracting the attention of the academic world. Over the summer, doctors and psychiatrists recruited the help of the Chill group in Croyde, North Devon to help them study the benefits of ocean swimming on mental health. If the results show a strong correlation then in the future GPs could be prescribing cold water swimming as a way to manage mental health issues.
In October the BBC reported on Louise Buxton from Derbyshire. She has found that swimming helps her relieve the ongoing symptoms of Long Covid she was experiencing. Immersion in cold water has helped to reduce the chest pain she had suffered from since contracting Covid-19 earlier in the year.
Finally, another study on cold water swimmers at Parliament Hill Lido has discovered a protein that could slow the onset of dementia or even reverse it. The research is in the very early stages, but it is clear that the science is slowly beginning to catch up with what many swimmers have known all along - that a bit of cold water is very good for you.
Have you experienced any health benefits from a chilly dip? We would love to hear about your experiences. Share your stories in the comments below.