Why You Should Try Wild Swimming This Summer
While swimming has always been a popular sport in the UK, wild swimming – which tends to refer to swimming in outdoor pools, lakes, rivers and the sea – has become somewhat of a craze, with Outdoor Swimming magazine reporting a 94% increase in the search term ‘wild swimming” between 2019 and 2020. Aside from the physical benefits a dip in the outdoors can have (of which there are numerous), some of the main benefits can be found in its impact on mental health and wellbeing.
Wild swimming is meditative
Unlike many other sports or even past times, wild swimming allows you to be fully present in the moment, focusing purely on technique and helping you disconnect from the demands of modern life, if only for a short while; after all it’s a far cry from a noisy gym or even your local park after work that’s teaming with other people. The emphasis on getting your breathing right is a huge part of wild swimming as it helps you navigate not just your strokes but adjusting to the temperature of the water too. And once you do master the right breathing technique, you should find your performance is improved and you get more out of your session.
Wild swimming can make you feel like you’re training harder
According to one piece of research, exercising outdoors or ‘green exercise’ has a big impact on the way we feel about exercise. As well as connecting us to nature and boosting general feelings of wellbeing, working out outside is generally perceived to be less physically exhaustive than other indoor forms of activity, helping to increase physical activity levels and physiological function.
Wild swimming can reduce depression and anxiety
While there is no definitive research into it, several experts believe that increased inflammation markers in the body can play a role in increasing symptoms such as fatigue, social withdrawal and low mood. Wild swimming is thought to help because it triggers an anti-inflammatory response in the body.
Wild swimming can reduce cortisol and boost dopamine
When you first get in the water your body experiences a cold shock response which triggers stress hormones to flood the body. Studies show that repeated immersion in cold water creates an acclimatisation effect that over time reduces the cold shock response you get, helping to keep these stress hormones levels at a reduced rate. It doesn’t just keep stress hormones from taking over though, wild swimming also actively boosts feelgood chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, as much as by 530% according to one study. Experts also found swimming outdoors increased levels of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline.