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Seven Incredible Benefits of Open Water Swimming

Open water swimming makes you feel incredible. But did you know there are also scientifically proven physical and mental health benefits?

We’re lucky to have a beautifully situated private lake here at The Falcon, designed by famed landscape architect Capability Brown and overlooked by Castle Ashby, where we offer daily open water swimming in stunning surroundings. Our guests and swim visitors all agree that there is something magical about swimming outside. Once you try it, we guarantee you’ll be hooked.

But outdoor swimming, wild swimming, or any form of swimming in the open air, doesn’t just make you feel great, it has proven health benefits too. We set out to investigate what some of them are so we could share them with you;

1. Open Water Swimming Reduces Stress and Depression

International research with over 3,000 swimmers across the world found that 74% said their water-based activities released stress and tension. Exercise is well known to have a positive impact on mood, reducing lethargy and depression and open water swimming does that too. In a trial where a 24-year old woman was treated with cold open water swimming for her depression she was able to gradually reduce and then cease her medication after weekly swim sessions.

2. Open Water Swimming Relieves Pain

Immersing limbs and body parts in icy water is an accepted technique used among athletes to help with injuries and pain relief. Swimming in open cold water can have exactly the same effect, helping to reduce pain if you have an immediate injury as well as reducing chronic pain, body aches and inflammation.

3. Open Water Swimming Improves Sleep

If you take to the open water regularly, you will find that your sleep is improved. Wild swimming can result in an increase in the levels of a hormone called prolactin in your body which may help to improve the quality of your sleep. And the cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body rest and repair itself. This promotes a feeling of relaxation and calm – resulting in a better night’s sleep.

4. Open Water Swimming Boosts Your Immune System

Immersing yourself in cold water just three times a week increases your white blood count, helping to fight infection and boost your immune system by activating antibodies and increasing metabolic rate, researchers have discovered. Another study found that open water swimmers who swam during the winter had higher antioxidant levels, showing how swimming outside can strengthen the immune system.

open water swimming at The Falcon Castle Ashby
Swimming in nature at The Falcon

4. Open Water Swimming Boosts Happiness

Taking a dip outdoors boosts your dopamine and serotonin levels – the happy hormones – and stimulates the release of feel-good endorphins. One study reported an immediate improvement in mood following each outdoor swim with a sustained, gradual reduction in symptoms of depression. Another recent report showed that swimming in cold water specifically (around 14 degrees Celsius) increased dopamine levels by 250%.

The happiness boost is so dramatic that wild swimming is currently being trialled as a treatment for depression as an alternative to drugs.

5. Open Water Swimming Increases Your Energy

Wild swimming gives your body and mind an extraordinary energy boost. During the first few minutes, wild swimmers experience a ‘high’ because their bodies release cortisol after the initial shock of entering cold water. (Cortisol is the same body chemical responsible for the runner’s high).

Swimming in cold water also helps flush your circulation pushing blood through your arteries, capillaries and veins giving you an instant rush of energy.

6. Open Water Swimming Connects You With Nature

Unlike swimming in a swimming pool, swimming outdoors connects you with nature and gives you a real sense of freedom, it’s an unique experience. With no bottom or sides of a pool to act as a comfort blanket, your sense of adventure is stimulated making wild swimming much more challenging than indoor swimming and therefore much more rewarding. Connecting with nature itself has proven benefits for mental health and the beautiful natural backdrops of outdoor swims boost all the other benefits of swimming outside in cold water.

7. It’s a Lot of Fun!

We couldn’t end without including this one – probably the most important reason to try open water or wild swimming is just that it’s a whole load of fun. The experience of being with other swimmers, outside in the fresh air, all enjoying the same energy and endorphin boost makes it unbeatable as a form of exercise. Walk past the lake at The Falcon at any time of year and you’ll be bound to hear laughter drifting up from it, which rather proves our point.

We look forward to welcoming you to the lake at The Falcon soon so we can show you just how incredible wild outdoor swimming can be.

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