What increases circulation, boosts the immune system, promotes weight loss, alleviates depression and even improves your sex life? The answer, according to its advocates, is wild swimming.
And they have scientific backing. Studies carried out by NASA in the seventies found that swimming outdoors causes ‘cold adaptation’, which lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces body fat, inhibits blood clotting, and increases fertility and libido.
Daniel Start is the author of Wild Swimming and has had a passion for freshwater swimming since childhood. “There are a lot of health benefits,” he enthuses. “One of the greatest things about jumping into a river or lake is the endorphin kick. After you’ve got over your initial fears about what might be lurking in the water, you feel enormous exhilaration. It’s the perfect way to reboot, and you will always feel better afterwards.”
Cold adaptation is triggered by both the water temperature and the body’s full immersion, he explains. “Your whole body comes alive, and it’s really good for the immune system. In fact, studies show that people who swim outdoors regularly have much stronger immune systems and suffer half the amount of colds as others.”
But it’s not just physically advantageous, he continues, as wild swimming also offers emotional benefits. “It has a strong effect on mood and wellbeing and is known to be good for depression. Beyond that, there’s the impact of getting out in nature and spending time surrounded by dragonflies and kingfishers. Gaining a frog’s eye view of the world is a wonderful form of mindfulness meditation.”
Lifelong wild swimmer Beryl Round agrees. “For me it’s about having your nose at the same level as the wildlife and feeling a part of it,” says the Lewes grandmother. “I also love the stillness and silence, as there’s always noise if you go to the swimming baths. Above all, though, there’s a sense of freedom. I’ve always loved it. When I was a child, if it was wet, I’d get in it!” [read more]