Being so close to the sea we have seen it all, surfers out in the storm, dry robes worn as coats, and brave swimmers out in the sea no matter the weather.
Here in Cornwall cold water swimming, or wild swimming, is a year-round thing, with people diving into the frosty waters come rain or snow. Wild swimming is the norm in Cornwall, with an abundance of beaches around and far fewer local pools, with locals and visitors alike diving in in wetsuits or their swimmers depending on how brave they’re feeling that day.
But what are the benefits of cold water swimming and how does it stand apart from a regular swim at your local pool?
The Mental Health Benefits of Wild Swimming
As well as other health benefits, swimming in cold water has long been believed to be full of benefits for our mental health.
Submerging yourself in cold water has been proven to stimulate the production of serotonin and dopamine in our bodies, otherwise known as the ‘happy chemicals’. This could be where that post-swim high comes from and why our moods always seem to improve after a swim out in the open water.
It’s hard not to be in the moment when the cold water rushes in. Stepping into cold water, whether it’s the sea or a plunge pool, is an intense sensation that grabs your focus, keeping your thoughts from straying to any worries or doubts and letting you concentrate on the here and now, making this the perfect exercise in mindfulness.
Whether you’re diving in with a wetsuit or braving it just in your swimmers, heading for regular cold water swims takes focus and confidence, perhaps pushing you out of your comfort zone as you brave the waves.
As you grow used to regular dips your confidence and self-esteem can grow, helping to boost your mood and feel good again.
One of the many mental health benefits of being around the ocean is the therapeutic effect of water. Blue spaces are considered calming, so being around open water can be good for mind, body and soul.
The Health Benefits of Cold Water Swimming
Alongside the mental effects of regularly swimming in cold water, there has been evidence of a few physical benefits throughout the years. Whilst we’re no experts, they definitely sound like reasons to give it a try!
At this time of year there are always colds and illnesses floating around, so an exercise that may help prevent them sounds like the perfect remedy. Whilst the evidence isn’t conclusive, many wild swimmers report suffering from fewer illnesses than non-swimmers do.
The idea behind this is that the shock of the cold when you start wild swimming, helps to increase white blood cell production, creating an immune system boost that fights off those pesky bugs!
Have you ever wondered why pr-athletes and frequent gym-goers sometimes like to have an ice bath after a game or workout? The cold water aids in recovery by directing blood to your organs, reducing blood flow and inflammation to muscles and joints for a speedy recovery.
Did your parents ever tell you that sea water is good for you? Cornish parents did, likening it to medicinal saline. Although that may not actually be the case, salt water does have some hidden treasures to help your skin.
Awash with beneficial magnesium, calcium and potassium, regular swims in the open water can be great news for your skin, and the sea does have some mild antiseptic qualities that may encourage healing, so our parents weren’t that far off the mark.
Cold Water Swimming in Cornwall
At St Michaels we are situated a short walk from Gyllyngvase Beach, the perfect place to practise wild swimming. In the summer the beach is lifeguarded and very popular with locals and visitors alike, making for the ideal swimming destination.
As the temperatures cool the beach crowds lessen, but cold water swimmers still flock to the sea at all times of the day, you’ll usually always see a few bobbing around.
Whilst cold water swimming is a common practice, it’s important that you know how to stay safe during your swims. If you’re considering giving it a try, aim to begin when sea temperatures are above 15 degrees to ease yourself in and don’t take yourself out of your depth. You can also work on your breathing or choose to use a wetsuit.
To avoid illness or hypothermia, make sure you keep your head out of the water and stay calm even if the cold feels like a shock. Listening to your body is crucial, so don’t force yourself to stay in longer than you need to and make sure to warm up slowly after you get out of the water. Get dry and warm, stay active and understand that your body may continue to cool for a while after you have left the water.
Try Something New with St Michaels
Journey to the coast and explore your relationship with the sea with a relaxed break at St Michaels Resort. Walk down to the beach to begin your wild swimming adventure or head to our spa and acclimatise to the colder temperatures in our cold plunge pool.
No matter your wild swimming exploration, always make sure to be safe and feel good again!