Sea Swimming and Why You Should Go
Since the UK is surrounded by the sea, gorgeous coastlines are usually never too far away, giving us lucky Brits unrestricted access to nature’s biggest swimming pool.
Despite this, many of us shy away from swimming in the sea – particularly in the colder months – opting instead to wait until the middle of summer or even until we have the opportunity to go abroad and sample warmer waters to go for a dip.
However, there are a ton of incredible benefits to be gained from swimming in the sea: even in the UK, and even in spring, autumn and winter. In fact, a growing community of open sea swimmers up and down the country swear by it, and by the incredible impact that open sea swimming has had on their lives. Here are just a few reasons why...
It’s a natural high.
When we enter cold water we experience a form of shock, which has a number of effects on the body.
One of these is that the release of endorphins is stimulated – a.k.a. happy hormones – contributing to the feelings of euphoria described by many cold water swimmers.
More than this, many open water swimmers attribute some of this natural high to the meditative experience that cold water swimming facilitates; when you enter the cold water, you’re pretty much unable to think about anything else, helping you to be present and press the ‘reset’ button on your day.
There are countless mental health benefits.
In addition to the short term benefits to your happiness, it’s thought that cold water swimming might be able to improve your mental health long term.
For one, forcing yourself into the cold water builds mental strength and can even boost your confidence and self esteem, as you succeed at overcoming the challenge of actually getting into the water.
More than this, it’s thought that cold water swimming can make you better able to deal with stress.
A study conducted by the University of Portsmouth found that after repeated submersion of participants into cold water, their bodies adapted and had a reduced stress response – i.e. a lower heart rate and slower breathing – over time after multiple submersions.
This reduced bodily response to stress was echoed when they put the participants into other physically stressful situations, such as high altitude environments, where they were better able to adapt than those who hadn’t been part of the cold water experiment, and it’s thought that this adaptation applies to handling psychological stress in our everyday lives, too.
Cold water swimming is a superpower for weight management.
While most of us know that swimming is a great workout – a 150-300 calorie burn for just a 30 minute session – it’s not as well known that swimming in cold water skyrockets your body’s ability to burn fat.
This is because, as you’re submerged into the cold water, your body has to use significantly more energy to keep your body temperature stable. So, fat is burned more quickly to provide the energy to keep your body warm in spite of its freezing surroundings.
Sea water is great for the skin.
Sea water is replete with minerals beneficial to the skin including magnesium – which has a reparative role and can reduce inflammation – as well as sodium, calcium, potassium and chloride.
These minerals are known to combat the bacteria that cause acne and can help to remove excess oil from pores, while the salty water acts as a natural exfoliant, buffing away dead skin cells and leaving you with a fresh-faced glow.
The sea swimming community is second to none.
Across the country, groups have formed based on a shared love open water swimming – and these groups typically swim year-round.
The open water swimming community is comprised of people of all ages who share a love of the water – particularly in the sea – and an appreciation for the incredible effects that open water swimming gives to them and their lives.
Sea swimming groups are incredibly welcoming and prioritise everyone’s safety when taking a plunge into the cold water, sharing the resulting euphoria together in a social environment that teems with positivity.
While there are numerous benefits to open water swimming in the sea – even during the colder months – there are a few rules to keep in mind to ensure you stay safe in the sea:
- Don’t jump in unless you’re a cold water pro – this could present too big a shock for your body.
- Try to avoid sea swimming by yourself – go in a group if you can.
- It’s a good idea to wear a swimming hat, as much of our body heat is lost through our head.
- If you feel your muscles stiffening, to the extent that you feel you may struggle to complete a full stroke, get out of the water.