Health benefits of winter swimming
• better tolerance of cold
• fewer colds
• fewer aches and pains
• better circulation
• lower blood pressure
• a refreshed mind
• a lessening of stress
• improved sleep
"No matter how stressed I am, all my troubles dissolve into the cold water", claims an active winter swimmer in Finland, and she is not alone: there are about 100 000 Finns who regularly take a dip in the cold lake in wintertime.
Swimming in cold water does, in fact, relieve stress and put you on a better mood: medical research has shown that the cold releases endorphin, a chemical that is produced in your hypophysis. Endorphin is known to reduce pain and make you feel happier.
It is also known that continuous exposure to cold water improves the tolerance to cold water and to the cold in general. As the body is toughened against the cold, the body's own immunity system improves. Furthermore, regular dipping in cold water and allowing your body adjust to the cold burns fat more effectively!
In addition, winter swimming activates the body’s symphathetic nervous system which controls the body's blood circulation. When swimming is continued for a longer time, it is likely to lower the body's basic blood pressure. Winter swimming also has an effect on the body's antioxidant system, which helps the body to endure various external strains.
The effects of winter swimming and other forms of cryotherapy in treating such conditions as rheumatism have been studied and the results have been encouraging. In Finland cryotherapy is used for pain relief and to treat arthritis. Results have shown it also very effective in helping people suffering from asthma. People suffering from fibromyalgia also use winter swimming for pain relief.
However, people with a serious illness or medical condition should ALWAYS consult their doctor before trying out winter swimming. In particular, blood pressure problems and heart disease symptoms may keep you from enjoying a cold swim. Remember, too, that there is a big difference between the temperature in the sauna and icy water! This causes a lot of strain on the heart, and the change in blood pressure may cause dizziness.
After a sauna bath and a swim in the cold water it is important to put on enough warm clothes to avoid catching a cold. You have no time to catch a cold in the water; if you feel cold after swimming, it is usually due to insufficient clothing.