9 crazy health benefits to wild swimming

Thinking about getting into wild swimming? You know what they say - when in doubt, swim it out

woman wild swimming in the sea
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The wild swimming craze is one of those trends that just seems to keep growing, with many people reaping the benefits of taking a cold water dip every day. Taking a dip in a lake, river or the open sea is a wonderful way to wash away the worries of the day and connect with nature. We should know - we’ve tried and tested it ourselves if you want to find out more

However, did you know that there are a huge amount of health benefits that come with the activity as well? An 2020 academic study suggested that wild swimming boosted the overall mood and wellbeing of the swimmers that took part, showing just how effective it can be. We’ve compiled the top 9 mental and physical health benefits to your new favourite hobby just so you know what to expect!

However, before we dive in (I had to get a pun in - sorry!) check out our best swimming goggles and best dry bags that can help get you set up. 

1. It improves your circulation 

When you enter the cold water, your blood flow is stimulated and rushes through your body to surround your vital organs and keep them warm. As a result, your heart pumps blood more efficiently, contributing to an improvement in your circulation. Evidence also shows that if you swim regularly, your body adapts to the cold which can improve your circulation on a more permanent basis. 

2. It helps you sleep better

Wild swimming stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, which prevents our body from overworking itself and restores feelings of relaxation. This can last long after you get out of the water, helping you get a better night’s sleep. 

3. It increases your happiness

Wild swimming can actively boost levels of happiness in our bodies as well. A 2000 scientific study found that cold water immersion can boost dopamine levels by 530%. Swimmers will also feel a massive rush of endorphins and many have reported feeling a sense of self worth after their dip.  

4. It boosts your immune system 

There is also evidence that cold water exposure can make swimmers more resistant to certain illnesses and infections, experiencing them less frequently and more mildly. The idea is that cold water can reduce the potential overproduction of certain hormones which contribute to impaired immunity, making your body more robust and unyielding to infection. 

5. It's meditative

When your body is immersed by cold water, it shocks the system and clears your mind. This is a survival technique, wiping your thoughts so that’s all you need to focus on. You have to concentrate on slowing your breathing, taking in your surroundings and staying calm - just like traditional meditation.

6. It prevents long-term health conditions

Cold water exposure in water can also increase the production of the protein adiponectin by adipose tissue. This protein is extremely important in protecting against insulin resistance, diabetes and other diseases.

7. It reduces aches and inflammation 

Whether suffering from a virus or stress, our immune system’s natural response is inflammation. Wild swimming works as a natural anti-inflammatory, and it also helps soothe aches and pains. One particular study found that after 4 months, the swimmers felt more energetic and had reported a reduction in pain levels versus the control group.

8. It contributes towards weight loss

Whilst swimming gets every muscle in your body moving, being in cold water also means your body has to work hard to stay warm. It therefore needs to burn calories or fat to provide energy, making it the perfect recipe for weight loss. 

9. You get to meet and spend time with like-minded people

Spending time with people that enjoy the same activities as you is a great way to have fun, relax and connect with others. Wild swimming jumped in popularity during lockdown for this very reason, and many people have continued to love it just as much. 

What are you waiting for? Read our beginner’s guide on how you can get started. 

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.