Why are so many people trying cold water swimming? The benefits and tips for how to do it safely

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report from Clevedon.

It is an extreme sport many ordinary people have been doing for years but 2020 appears to have created a perfect storm for people trying winter swimming for the first time.

The second national lockdown has led to the closure of many indoor and outdoor pools and lidos. This combined with people having more time working from home, and the uptake in outdoor swimming during the first lockdown's summer months, means it is no surprise this year has been a catalyst.

Swimmers describe the feeling of a cold water swim as euphoric Credit: ITV News West Country

For years people have proclaimed the mental health benefits from a dip in cold waters, and a recent study by the University of Cambridge suggesting it may help prevent dementia may also give reason for people to consider getting in a lake or sea.

However it is still an extreme sport and without proper precautions can be dangerous.

Wrapping up with a wooly hat and a warm drink is key to staying safe after swimming in cold waters Credit: ITV News West Country

Outdoor swimming coach Rowan Clarke offers her advice for how to do it safely.

Prepare for cold water shock

When you first get into the water you get what's called a cold water shock response and you gasp taking in an involuntary intake of breath and you do not want that to happen when your head's under the water

Do not stay in too long

You need to limit the amount of time you spend in the cold water. You will get those mental health benefits in the first two to three minutes of getting in so there is no advantage for staying in longer than that.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to stay in no longer than one minute per degree of temperature the water is, so if the water is eight degrees, cap your swim at no longer than eight minutes.

Get dressed as quickly as possible

When you first get out you won't feel very cold but your overall core temperature carries on dropping for about 30 to 40 minutes after you get out the water. So get dressed as quickly as you can, and as warmly as you can. A tip is to pack the clothes in your bag in the order you need them to get dressed.

Have warm drinks and a snack ready

Make sure you have a warm drink to hand as it warms you up inside your core. A hot water bottle and a snack will also help your body get warm again.

Warleigh Weir is another popular outdoor swimming spot near Bath Credit: ITV News West Country

Popular West Country swimming spots

  • Clevedon Marine Lake

  • Vobster Quay, Radstock

  • Warleigh Weir, Bath

  • Cotswold Water Park, Cirencester

  • Bristol Open Water, Bradley Stoke

  • Henleaze Lake, Bristol

  • Bude Sea Pool

  • Westward Ho! Sea Pool

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