- David Price
Take the PLUNGE
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela
Open water swimming has long been known for its physical and mental benefits. As swimming season thrusts into action again everywhere, the enticing pull of open water and dare I say, the rush of the cold, palpable wild, calls many of us out of hibernation.
Water makes up about 71% of the Earth’s surface and around 60% of an adult body. Suffice to say, we are what we inhabit, maybe we were all born to swim, from our very conception in the womb. Maybe, it’s more natural or necessary, than we all think. And by practising it, makes us feel closer to home somehow. There is nothing quite like the freedom of swimming wild without boundaries, lanes or limits.
The benefits to this type of exercise for heart, mind and soul are seemingly endless, but here’s just a few to entice you to take the plunge yourself....
When your body hits the water, your mood is lifted immediately due to the coolness of the water, leaving you free from stress and tiredness. Invigorated, with a new sense of clarity. Who isn’t looking for that increased happiness hormone? Boosted dopamine levels as well as endorphin and adrenaline release can only give us a good mood boost.
Regular open water swimming can lower stress levels, anxiety and depression. Swimming for half an hour 3 times a week can significantly lower blood pressure levels and help to maintain control over cholesterol levels, which can all lead to increased chances of heart attack. Cold water helps boost our circulation.
Swimming forces us to be mindful of our breathing and connection with our body. It focuses our attention to our breath and therefore keeping us ‘in the moment’.
Cold water swimming can make your body’s system more efficient and effective, improving your body’s defence and potentially reducing risk of cancers, neurological and respiratory diseases. It can also be a big aide to asthma and type 2 diabetes sufferers.
Open water swimming can boost your immune system and make you less susceptible to infections.
Swimming can improve sleep patterns and even help you ‘sleep like a log’.... just imagine that heavy log floating on a pool of water and already, somehow, we have relaxed.
Swimming gives us a full body work out and boosts our metabolism, by exercising in water our body is already working harder than on land. A good 30 minutes of swimming is worth 45 minutes of land-based exercise... maximum reward for minimum effort.
Regular open water swimming can improve mood and memory. Researchers are currently studying how cold-water swimming may protect the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia. They have found a “cold shock” protein in the blood of winter swimmers that has been shown to slow the onset of such a disease and possibly even repair some of the damage it causes.
Swimming is one of the most effective calorie burners. Even just a gentle swim for 30 minutes can burn over 200 calories, which is double that of walking. If sweating puts you off certain exercise, then swimming is perfect for you. As the water around you constantly cools the body temp, you will emerge from a full body work out, cool, yet exhilarated.
Water supports 90% of the body’s weight, so if you suffer from niggling sports injuries or long-term illnesses like arthritis, then this is the best exercise for you, to reduce pain and stiffness.
Too shy to go alone? Take a friend. It doesn’t have to be someone, who is already an open water swimmer, you’d be surprised how many people around you would love to take the plunge.
The gear - It’s simpler than it sounds, get a wetsuit (and maybe some foot socks for those particularly cold days.)
A location - There are open water venues all around the country. head to the following sites to find out locations in your area: https://outdoorswimmer.com
We like Denham Waterski Club, North Orbital Road, Denham, Bucks, UB9 5HE. Check out the site here: http://denhamwaterski.com/swim/swim.html
On a sunny day, one has also been known to relax with a refreshing drink and warming bacon sandwich after an invigorating morning swim.
For this location, all bookings are done through NOWCA Action App. First, sign up as a member to NOWCA to book onto sessions and download app. https://nowca.org
Hope you, too, take the plunge, welcome the wild and find your new, natural high!
With so many health benefits being discovered it's hard to ignore open water swimming. Once you start its easy to get hooked, its a great way to get away from everything especially the phone !
I'd like to try open water swimming, but I don't think it's too easy swimming in a dry suit..
This is my new activity, the first ten minutes are the worst but totally worth it for the fresh refreshment feeling you get. I particularly enjoy swimming due to having a knee injury and being able to compete and get stronger. I have also toned up as well, ready for the beach !