Plunging yourself into cold water might not necessarily be on the top of your to-do list (and who can blame you?!).
But with the recent lockdowns forcing the temporary closure of indoor swimming pools, there’s been a rise in the number of people turning to open water swimming.
As shown by recent stats, 45% of swimmers increased how much they swam outside in 2020. The same stats estimated that outdoor swimming in the UK has increased by between 1.5 and 3 times since 2019. And there’s good reason. According to a small number of studies, celebrities and athletes – cold water therapy has a myriad of health benefits.
What exactly is cold water therapy?
Cold water therapy – which can sometimes be referred to as cold hydrotherapy – is the practice of using water that’s around 15 degrees to treat health conditions or stimulate health benefits.
Despite the recent hype around the practice, cold water therapy is nothing new. It’s actually been around for a couple thousand years. But recent modifications of this practice include short and sharp cold showers, outdoor swims and cold-water immersion therapy sessions.
So, why the buzz?
The exact benefits of cold-water therapy are long disputed in the health industry. But according to certain enthusiasts, taking a cold water dip is the answer to many things.
The Wim Hof method
This method is based on a combination of extreme cold-water therapy and specialised breathing techniques. It was the brainchild of Mr Wim Hof – a former athlete – who swears by this regime and raves about the many benefits it can bring.
In the episode he says: “Cold water is a great way to learn to deal with stress. If you learn how to breathe deep, you can go into the cold water and adapt. You become the alchemist of life itself.”
So, what exactly are the benefits of cold water therapy?
According to Mr Wim Hof, cold water therapy can:
- Improve your circulation
- Reduce inflammation in your body
- Higher energy levels
- Deepen your sleep
However, it’s important to note that not much research has been done to solidify these claims. But science does suggest that it can:
- Lessen muscle soreness – a 2011 study found that cyclists who took part in intense training sessions had decreased soreness after they immersed in cold water for 10 minutes. A later 2016 study reported the same thing.
- Ease symptoms of depression – some studies have suggested that cold open water swimming has helped to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. In one study, a woman who had experience anxiety and depression from the age of 17 turned to open water swimming aged 24. The study confirmed that over time, her symptoms decreased significantly.
- Cold water can boost your immune system – A handful of studies have suggested that daily doses of cold water could bolster your immune system over a period of weeks or months.
To take the plunge or not to take the plunge
“But as highlighted above, there are a handful of health benefits that cannot be disputed. I myself have been swimming for as long as I can remember. With indoor swimming pools now reopening, I can’t say I will be practicing my front crawl in my nearest lake – but I might try turning the shower temperature down a few notches.”
Robin Kiashek has more than 25 years’ experience in his field. He believes in taking a holistic approach when it comes to treating his clients. If you are suffering from a series of health issues – whether it’s headaches, aches and pains or long covid – don’t hesitate to get in touch.
NB: Cold water swimming should be done with guidance from a professional and consider that certain medical conditions and ages should be taken into consideration.