Middle of winter. Time for a dip in the local lake? Er, we think not! Indeed, swimming in an ice cold lake doesn’t seem like a particularly safe option, unless you are going with a group of experienced people and your heart is in good health.
However, according to research – and a few hardy individuals – cold water swimming is exactly what the doctor should be ordering.
People have been cold water swimming in eastern Europe and the Netherlands for thousands of years. And many people believe that taking a dip in an ice cold pool is good for pain relief.
In fact, research reveals that taking a plunge in cold water increases norepinephrine, which is a natural painkiller. And, over time, this can stimulate the immune system.
Which is why cold water swimming – or a cold water plunge pool – is recommended for people with arthritis or injuries.
The research reports: "People experience sometimes two or three days of feeling better after just two or three minutes in the cold plunge."
Plunging several times a week can also strengthen your immune system. But it’s recommended that people build it up. The feeling of such extreme cold can be overwhelming (and is definitely not for those with health problems.)
But one fan of cold water swimming says the endorphin rush is like nothing else. He describes the feeling: "It's one heck of a shock. My skin just comes alive. I’m beaming inside.”
Make your own cold water plunge pool
Not everyone has access to a cold plunge pool or the ability to go for a swim in the safe environment of a cold water lake. Instead, you could try this at home:
Fill your bath with ice and water. Then get into the water and try to sit in it for at least a minute… building up with repeated cold water bathings to three minutes. Three to four times a week is apparently the required number of times for effective pain relief and an immune system boost.