Yep, it’s the beginning of March, so who’s ready for a swim?? And I don’t mean hitting the indoor pool at the local YMCA. I mean really going for a “Cold Water Plunge”! Thinking of taking a plunge in cold water may have you pulling up that comforter around your neck and flipping the channels of the TV to view past episodes of the “Walking Dead” and saying forget about the water till July or August.
We all know that the winter provides for some, the excitement of getting out and hitting the slopes or the ice with their hockey sticks and enjoying the frigid temperatures as they go about getting the most out of winter-sports related activities. But like the above person, you may be dreading the cold temperatures and just can’t wait for that sun to climb in the sky and start pumping out its warmth this spring.
But in reality, there are quite a few reasons why taking that dive into a cold water lake may actually be beneficial to you! It’s a fact that exercising, any time of the year produces those “Endorphins” that make you feel pumped and better about yourself and the day you’re producing them! And taking a plunge in the wintertime can produce that same effect!
The cold will also stimulate your parasympathetic system, which is responsible for rest and repair, and this can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression. This type of condition is termed “Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, for short”. SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. So pumping out those endorphins during the winter season can really help you maintain a better outlook on life, in general, this time of year. Taking that cold water lap or two will provide you with the means to come out of the water with a more positive outlook, then when you first jumped in.
Cold water swimming has also been found to be good for your lungs and general health as well. Evidence shows that winter swimmers may be less susceptible to contracting certain diseases.
Particularly those diseases that target the respiratory system. The incidence of infectious diseases affecting the upper respiratory tract is 40% lower among winter swimmers when compared to a control group. Short-term exposure of the whole body to cold water produces oxidative stress, which makes winter swimmers develop improved antioxidative protection
So, if you are wanting a little extra protection, you may want to consider swimming more in the winter or in non-heated pools.
With the news media posting the latest on the current flu situation you may find it hard to believe but cold water swimming can actually help you build up your body’s natural resistance to sickness. Now we’re not suggesting that simply doing a couple of laps in a cold lake will stop you from getting the flu, or any other type of illness. But when your body is regularly exposed to cold water, it gives your immunes system some exercise, see, you’re building it up.
When you take a dip in the icy water, the body sees this severe temperature change as a physical attack. The reaction that occurs gives your body good practice. It’s kind of like specialized training for your immune system while simultaneously training your muscles as you swim. Both are strengthened. Scientists from the Czech Republic immersed witting subjects in cold water for one hour, three times a week and monitored their physiology. They found significant increases in white blood cell counts and several other factors relating to the immune system.
Now, spending some time in the water this time of year is no easy feat, after all, your still doing it for an overall exercise. As such, you need to track the amount of time you’re exerting yourself and how well you’re doing as you slice through the water. A good way to do this is by using a good fitness tracker. Naturally, one that does double duty as a swim watch as well. One that we like that fits the bill is the Garmin Vivoactive HR Strapless Heart Rate SmartWatch
(https://www.heartratemonitorsusa.com/collections/swimming/products/garmin-vivoactivehr) This watch not only tracks your activity on land but it will also be your aide under water. When you hit the pool lane, you can monitor your total and interval distance along with pace, stroke count, stroke type and many more. The built-in swimming app allows your smartwatch to also calculate the efficiency of time and number of strokes required to finish one lap. You can also effortlessly stop, pause and resume your swimming session between rest intervals. In the end, you will be provided with a detailed summary data with information like intervals, session averages, overall time and personal records.
So, there you have it. There are quite a few reasons to get on up off that couch, gather your swimsuit and maybe a good pair of water shoes since swimming in a lake tends to have some pointy objects under the water that you might just step on. If you’re swimming in an unheated pool, well, I’d still wear a pair. After all, they don’t weigh much and you have the peace of mind of not having to worry about slipping on any slick surface as you get in or out of the pool.
So go ahead, scope out where you can get your feet wet this time of year and get your blood and those endorphins pumping and you may just be surprised at how much better your mood will be as you work your way through your everyday activities.