USA Swimming report that more than 27 million Americans swim for fitness. It is an excellent all-round form of exercise if you want to improve your health, and you don’t have to be restricted to the pool. Wild swimming in the rivers, lakes, and oceans is a great way to get out in nature, and you don’t need an expensive gym membership. Not only is wild swimming good for your physical health, but it has also been shown to improve your mental health, relieving the symptoms of depression, and giving you an enormous sense of wellbeing.
Where to go wild swimming
Before you go jumping into the nearest body of water, it is important to think about safety for wild swimming. Bear in mind that over half of drownings occur in natural settings, so make sure that you check the depth of the water and look out for any obstructions. A strong current can be a risk, and it is not always visible on top of the water, so check local guidance before you get into the water. Never swim in water that is stagnant, urban rivers or reedy shallows, and avoid water with blue-green algae. When you are wild swimming, it is advisable to go with someone else, and always wear a colored swim hat so that you can be seen easily. Make sure that you have a good warm-up before you get into the water, and never stay in the water if you are feeling very cold.
Improving your physical health
Wild swimming in cold water stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This is responsible for helping to heal and repair the body. In stimulating the PNS, you will feel content and relaxed, and this will help you have a good night’s sleep. When we swim in cold water, the heart has to work a little bit harder to pump the blood around the body – this will boost your circulation and lower blood pressure. Being immersed will also shock your immune system into producing more antioxidants and white blood cells. This boost to your immune system can help combat viruses and other illnesses.
Improving your mental health
Swimming in cold water can initially make your skin feel prickly or sting a little. To combat this feeling, the body produces endorphins that give you a feeling of wellbeing that continues long after you have got dried. The endorphins also help reduce stress and anxiety so that you feel happier. The exercise stimulates the body to produce a unique protein known as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). This protein repairs and protects our memory, as well as assisting with the release of endorphins. Research has also found that the combination of exercise, beautiful blue views and the camaraderie of swimming with others has a profound positive effect on wellbeing.
Wild swimming is a fantastic form of exercise for all muscle groups and will improve your overall fitness levels. There are also significant benefits for your mental health, and it can give you an uplifting sense of wellbeing.