The last thing I fancy doing on a ball-freezing winter’s day is jump in a pool of icy water. And yet…
Some of my clients tell me that they would swim but they can’t stand being in a swimming pool of chlorinated water - and all those kids pissing in it. I take the point – I have to blank out so much when I swim at Highbury Pool or Clissold.
These days I point my clients in the direction of open water swimming. It isn’t an immediately attractive propostion but the benefits of this bracing and invigorating form of exercise are becoming much more widely known. The clients of mine who do it tend to be fit and are already into triathlons, Ironman and other forms of masochism. But a friend of mine who lives by the coast in the South-west joins friends to swim in icy sea water all year round. She’s now 82 and going strong.
A study by Czech scientists has revealed that regular open water swimming can boost your immune system but for years those who swim in open water have been extolling the health benefits. Recently there has been a lot of press about how open water swimming can help with depression – I assumed this was because your mind had other things to think about when the body was immersed in icy water, but I was wrong.
Cold water stimulates the parasympathetic system, which helps your body rest and repair itself. The release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin is associated with open water swimming. Low levels of dopamine and serotonin are found in people with depression, whereas higher levels help to keep you in good spirits.
I know people who swear that open water swimming not only invigorates their bodies, but also helps keep them mentally alert and steers them away from depression. In any case, every one of my clients who does open water swimming tells me it makes you feel fantastic.
If you want to find out more about open water swimming, do get in touch with Swim Open, experts in the field. They run courses for all levels of swimmer – much better than simply jumping in at the (freezing) deep end. Contact info can be found on their website: