Leave your stress in the water

Studies have shown that winter swimming affects people in many different ways. For a lot of people it relieves stress, as the cold releases stress hormones. Continuous exposure to cold water naturally improves the tolerance to cold water and to the cold in general. As the body is toughened against the cold, its immunity is also improved.

Winter swimming affects both the body’s immune and antioxidant systems, which may help the body to endure various external strains. When swimming is continued it will most likely lower blood pressure.The effects of winter swimming and other forms of cryotherapy in treating such conditions as rheumatism have also been studied and the results have been encouraging. In Finland cryotherapy is used for pain relief and to treat arthritis. Results from elsewhere have shown it also very effective in improving the respiration of people suffering from asthma.

Other Health benefits

Winter swimmers believe that the icy dips have a positive effect on their overall health. These everyday experiences are backed up by research results. Researcher Pirkko Huttunen, who has examined the health benefits of toughening yourself against the cold, states that the feeling of refreshment and invigoration is a result of an injection of hormones caused by the cold, as large scale changes in temperature increase the discharge of stress hormones. Because winter swimming improves blood circulation and the metabolism of tissues, it slows down the aging process of cells and preserves, for example, the elasticity of your skin. According to Huttunen’s research, people who swim regularly have significantly lower blood pressure. However, these positive effects will disappear if swimming is not continued.

As stated above, winter swimming is good for almost everyone, but people who suffer from some kind of serious disease or condition should consult their doctor about the risks of winter swimming. In particular, blood pressure problems and heart disease symptoms may keep you from enjoying a cold swim.

The difference in temperature between the sauna and the hole in the ice causes great strain on the heart and changes in blood pressure may cause dizziness. After a sauna and swim in the icy water, be sure to put on enough warm clothes to avoid catching a cold. You will not have time to catch a cold in the water; if you feel cold after swimming it is usually due to insufficient clothing.

Photo by Suomen Latu/Antero Aaltonen

The health benefits of winter swimming

• better tolerance of cold
• fewer colds
• fewer aches and pains
• better circulation
• lower blood pressure
• a refreshed mind
• a lessening of stress
• improved sleep

 

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