Whether you choose a river, lake or stream, an outdoor swimming pool or the sea, cold water swimming is not only incredibly invigorating, it can also be really good for you.
Studies show that routine swimming in cold water can boost metabolism, improve blood circulation, improve skin tone, release endorphins and even help you sleep. There’s a wonderful all-natural high that goes with a cold water swim – an all-embracing sense of wellbeing that can become addictive. It’s because immersing yourself in stingingly cold water will get your feel good endorphins flowing in order to relieve the burning sensation on your skin.
The cold will also stimulate your parasympathetic system, which is responsible for rest and repair, and this can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression. Couple this effect with the endorphin rush as you take the plunge and it should make for a warm glow and a wide smile when you re-emerge.
What actually qualifies as a cold water swim? For most, it’s a dip in water under 15°C without a wetsuit. Tougher nuts consider 10°C the cut off, while the hardiest cold water enthusiasts only truck with an invigorating 4.4°C or below.
Tips for cold water novices:
- Acclimatise yourself. Start gently in summer and keep going as the water gets colder.
- Always take warm clothes with you and wear lots – so that you feel too hot – until just before you get in. You’ll need a hat, scarf and coat for afterwards, as well as some shoes or socks as standing around on freezing ground is painful.
- When you get into the water, you might initially feel frozen and then slowly start to feel comfortable. However, beware: if you’re feeling comfortable it’s because you are getting cold – all the blood is going to your core but basically you’re getting hypothermia.
- Having a hot shower straight afterwards might feel nice on your skin, or seem a good idea, but it’s not a good thing to do if you’ve become cold internally or stayed in too long. It leads your body to think it’s not cold any more so stops trying so hard to keep you warm internally.
- Do not get into cold water if you have a heart condition (cold water induces shock) or have drunk alcohol (which reduces body temperature).
The Scarlet freshwater outdoor pool
Here at the Scarlet, our beautiful freshwater, reed-filtered outdoor pool tends to hover around the 22°C mark in summer – making it the idea place to start your new cold water habit. Later in the year, the temperature plummets to a bracing 7°C but you’ll see members of our team enjoying the occasional plunge right through the year.
Here are some of our favourite photos of past guests braving a dip in our freshwater outdoor pool.