Swimming in nature is, quite simply, a joy. No wonder wild swimming – aka swimming in natural bodies of water – has been steadily growing in popularity
Swimming outdoors is a multi-sensory pleasure. It triggers temperature receptors under the skin to release hormones such as adrenaline and endorphins that offer a mood-enhancing lift to swimming in the great outdoors that goes beyond the beauty of the setting itself. As Olympic open swimmer Keri-anne Payne put it in a recent interview: ‘Swimming outdoors you get this rush, you feel exhilarated.’
Swimming in cold water, meanwhile, has been shown to up the game again, boosting everything from your immune system to blood circulation and libido. No wonder so many pro athletes have turned to cold therapies, such as the Wim Hof Method, which – with their ice baths and cold showers – offer a more controlled version of the same thing.
A seasonal activity that combines the best of both is festive swimming. One of the quirkier activities on the UK’s annual festive calendar, if you’ve never tried it, we can recommend the fun and pure adrenaline rush that comes with a short, sharp dip into winter water.
The Great Outdoors
The Outdoor Swimming Society has a full list of swim events that taking place across the UK throughout the year (including festive dips), along with a list of dos and don’ts that will help you swim safely. Whether you’re a seasoned wild swimmer or first timer, you always need to be careful when swimming outdoors and risks are heightened in cold water (and in Britain, the water can be cold, even in the warmer months), so do your homework.
Of course, not everyone wants to throw themselves into a body of ice-cold water. Good news, then, that the restorative effects of a natural setting have been shown to enhance the benefits of any exercise to your mental health. So whatever your preferred activity might be – take it outside.