Swimming is a Winner

Having sat for four hours on a train, I was relieved to get off and exercise my body and mind in the best ways I know how – outdoors. Thirty minutes later I was swimming in a cold seawater pool, with the rain splashing down all around. I felt better almost instantly.

Walking and running have always been my preferred forms but, having moved home to live beside the sea, it would have been inexcusable not to get into the water. Now, cold water swimming is an integral part of my exercise routine. During the summer months, I do lengths in the open-air seawater pool nearby and, throughout the year, I bob into the sea (wearing a wetsuit when it’s cold).

Enthusiasts will tell you that there are numerous benefits to this form of exercise. Here are some that are scientifically proven:

  • Happy hormones. Immersion in cold water activates the release of the eel-good chemicals in our brain, dopamine and endorphins.
  • Stress-busting. Four to six dips in cold water can help reduce depression and anxiety by stimulating the vagus nerve, the one that helps our bodies deal with stress.
  • Improved physical function. Arthritis sufferers find that aquatic activities, such as including swimming, increase mobility.
  • Brain boost. There are only a couple of studies so far, but results show that after a 20 minute, moderate-intense swim, visual information and cognitive tests were improved.
  • General health. Swimming improves bone density, immune systems, heart and lung strength, weight loss and deep sleep.
  • Longer life. Swimmers have a 28% lower risk of an early death and a 41% lower risk of heart disease and strokes compared with non-swimmers.

And there is a bonus: when you take up swimming you have a chance to make new friends. I certainly did. When I go to the pool now there is always someone I know and can chat to. My partner is even on a WhatsApp group that rounds up members to get out and dip in the sea – usually when the weather’s fine!

But there is, unfortunately, a dark side to swimming in the UK and that is water pollution.

Because of this I am wary and never swim with my face in the sea water. I also use the Surfers Against Sewage interactive on line map - apps to down load on your phone Download the SSRS for Apple Download the SSRS for Android to track real-time sewage discharge and pollution risks around the UK to ensure safe swimming.  And you may also want to join a Dirty Water campaign which highlights the need for government and industry to act urgently stop poisoning, and then start cleaning up, coastal waters and waterways across the UK.

Otherwise, take care and swim your way to health and happiness!