This guide to festive outdoor swimming in wintertime explains how a bracing dip in cold water can improve your metabolism and general well-being.
There is no shortage of hardy people ending each year with an invigorating plunge in chilly water. Many claim that swimming in open water at Christmas time is an activity that results in a handful of surprising health benefits.
So, what are some of the top tips on festive outdoor swimming – especially for beginners? Another section explains more about snorkeling and how to snorkel (e.g. in oceans and rivers).
Well, there is no doubt that the festive season can be a little stressful for many. As a result, a few days of sedentary over indulgence often depletes normal energy levels.
Experts suggest there are mental and physical health benefits of outdoor swimming in winter. So, how and where can you take a safe and invigorating plunge into crisp, cool waters around the United Kingdom?
Tips for Swimming Outdoors in Cold Water
First of all, you want to avoid common ‘cold water shock’ symptoms. The condition can steal air from your lungs, and in turn, leave you feeling helpless within only a few seconds. So, make sure you splash your face with cold water before jumping in.
Even so, immersing yourself in cold water produces a slight ‘stinging’ sensation on your skin.
Your body will try to combat this feeling by producing endorphins. In turn, that should trigger a positive feeling that runs throughout your body.
Let’s be honest here, swimming in cold water is unlikely to be a pleasant experience that everyone will enjoy. But, the extreme change in temperature sends signals to the heart – telling it to pump more blood to our organs.
So yes, it is a chemical reaction that results in improved circulation and it flushes out toxins. Moreover, festive outdoor swimming can improve your general mood, help you tackle the effects of stress, and overcome anxiety.
Swimming in Cold Water Improves Metabolism
Our bodies need to work harder to stay warm when we swim outdoors. As a result, we burn more calories than regular exercising (e.g. walking exercise benefits for health and fitness).
Thus, swimming in colder water means your body will be working harder, and in turn, converting fat deposits into energy.
Do You Need a Wetsuit for Outdoor Swimming?
You should never swim in the coastal and inland waters of the United Kingdom for long periods of time without wearing adequate thermal protection (e.g. a neoprene wetsuit).
Swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving in cold water, especially during the winter months (e.g. December to March), can be extremely dangerous. Doing so could trigger:
- Cold water shock
- Panic attacks
Swimming and Alcohol
The Christmas period typically involves the consumption of various types of alcoholic beverages. It is dangerous to swim in cold water whilst under the influence of alcohol (or while suffering a hangover).
Where to Go Festive Swimming in the UK
So, now that you know some of the health benefits of swimming in cold water, where can you join in this winter time? Here is a list of festive swims that take place annually around the United Kingdom.
Exmouth Christmas Day Swim
Hundreds of hardy people descend upon the beach every 25th of December (and have done so since 1970) for the famous Exmouth Christmas Day Swim.
The event continues to grow in scale each year. The organisers say everyone is welcome to have a dip, and they welcome fancy dress!
The swim kicks off at 11 am sharp, on the beach opposite the clock tower.
Hampstead Heath Ponds Christmas Day Swim
The forty (40) yard race is a Christmas tradition for many of the locals, which first started more than thirty years ago.
The Highgate Lifebuoys help to get swimmers in the festive spirit with a bugle rendition of ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ before the participants dive in for their race.
The action takes place at 11 am on Christmas Day at the Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds.
Wear your best fancy dress and parade through the streets of South Queensferry. The next step is heaving yourself into the icy waters of the firth of forth (feeding into the North Sea).
You can join in the fun of the ‘Loony Dook Christmas Day Swim‘ at South Queensferry, (Firth of Forth).
Salford Quays New Years Day Swim
Do you have an urge to swim in the waters of Manchester’s ship canal? What better way is there to blow away the cobwebs in the great outdoors.
Go ahead and freeze your baubles off at the Salford Quays New Years Day swim (Dock 9, Salford Quays, Manchester at 12 noon).
Sunderland Boxing Day Dip
This is a popular event for the local in the North East of Sunderland (first founded in 1964). The organisers encourage fancy dress and the Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland will judge the best dressed swimmers at 10.45 am.
And where does this invigorating cold water splash take place? Prepare to be at Seaburn on Boxing Day at 11 am for the Sunderland Boxing Day Dip.