Looking for a health boost? Try open water swimming


If you’ve committed to getting fitter and healthier, open water swimming might not be top of your list to try. But why not?

Many think that wild swimming isn’t for them - whether it’s the time commitment, the belief that you need lots of expensive kit, or that you need a strong technique to start (spoiler: not true! Check out our blog posts on open water swimming essential equipment and starting out with wild swimming). But for those who decide to give it a go, the take-up rate to becoming a regular wild swimmer is significant. Once you take that first dip, you just can’t stop! 

So to persuade you to give the wonderful world of wild swimming a try, we’re sharing five health benefits that are pretty unique to open water swimmers, i.e. positives you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. Ready? Let’s get swimming!

4 unique health benefits of open water swimming

A dip into nature. We hear a lot about green spaces and the powerful impact they can have on our mental health, but what about blue spaces? 

Many of us know the feeling of increased calm and wellbeing we have when we’re near bodies or water or the sea, and open water swimmers rave about how those positive feelings are enhanced when you’re actually *in* the water rather than just looking at it. For many, it’s this sense of peace and perspective that draws swimmers back time and time again.

Scientific studies are limited, but some are starting to emerge. One participant in a recent study from Ireland said that swimming puts concerns or worries into perspective: “You’re this tiny person in this vastness that is connected to everything…I think that’s very soothing and calming.” 

Activating your stress response. At first, this doesn’t really sound like a positive, but activating your stress response - increasing adrenaline, upping your heartrate, accelerating your breathing - in a ‘safe’ environment like cold water swimming is actually associated with long-term health benefits. 

Stressors encourage the body to produce more white blood cells - brilliant news for your immune system. Plus, getting some practice at experiencing stress in a ‘practice’ situation means that when you’re faced with it in real life, your body is used to dealing with it - and, more importantly, recovering from it.  

A sense of community. Connection, camaraderie, community - whatever you want to call it, open water swimming creates opportunities to meet like-minded people, make friends and have a powerful shared experience. Regular open water swimmers are passionate about their community, and how it’s made up of all ages, all ability levels and all kinds of bodies. 

In the same Irish study, participants spoke of the “sense of oneness” wild swimming cultivates. ““We go there for that same thing, to feel happier,” said one respondent. “But we all go for different reasons, and there’s meaning in that. That’s why it’s very special: we all feel that connection with people.” 

And this connection has very real physical and mental health benefits. Countless studies have shown that people who have strong and positive relationships with family, friends and their chosen communities feel more positive about life, experience better health, and live longer.

Swimmer’s High. We’ve all heard of runner’s high, but what about swimmer’s high? Open water swimming is highly effective at boosting our endocannabinoids - a naturally-produced biochemical that makes us feel calmer, less anxious, and relaxed. 

Although swimmer’s high is short-lived, it can be addictive - encouraging swimmers to return to the water time and time again for more of the same. Of course, the more physical activity you do, the better it is for you - and as time goes on, you’ll be reaping more of the benefits above. 

Feeling inspired to take an open water dip but want something to aim for? Take a look at the Great North Swim - with six different swim events to suit all ability levels - here.


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