Deeply satisfying and madly invigorating – the feeling of making a splash in a natural body of water like a lake, river, sea, waterfall or lagoon (‘wild swimming’) is second to none.
Dubbed “wild swimming”, this exhilarating activity not only makes incredible memories but also has a wide range of health benefits! You do enjoy when the hero of the movie swims against the raging waters to save the day don’t you?
What is Wild Swimming?
Many people immediately think that ‘wild swimming’ refers to skinny dipping! In fact, ‘wild swimming’ refers to any kind of swim outside of a traditional swimming pool, like in seas, rivers, freshwater water lakes and storming streams and icy mountain pools in the wild!
But why do you go for wild swimming?
The best reason to go for a wild swim are soaring temperatures. What is more rejuvenating than bathing in cold water on a hot day?
Wild swimming is growing in popularity in the UK, as there are many open public spaces which aren’t subject to trespassing laws and where you are permitted to swim.
What do you Need for Wild Swimming?
Ideally nothing! Yes, if the water is clean and you have permission then you can bathe like you were born today wearing nothing. But alas, that’s not going to happen!
One – water is nowhere as clean now. The dirty environment has traces of pollution everywhere so it’s a bad idea to swim without proper gear.
Two – even with the clean water you have fish and other marine or water animals that could harm you. So the best advice is to gear up for wild swimming.
For the gear – swimsuit, goggles, and brightly-colored swim cap, for visibility.
Now the swimsuits vary in thickness and sleeve length for maximum mobility. So better to find what feels most comfortable for you. For extra warmth and safety you can add neoprene booties and gloves too.
What Are The Benefits Of Wild Swimming?
Some swimmers swear by “wild swimming” for its health benefits. In fact, some might even object to the term and say that it’s just “swimming”, with no prefixes or suffixes! These hardcore swimmers will tell you that there is no better form of hydrotherapy than a dip outdoors.
While many people prefer to swim in chlorinated pools in leisure centres or in their own backyard because of health and safety concerns, there are also immense health benefits to be gained by a wild swim!
Let’s have a look at the ways wild swimming contributes to maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit. A wild dip in cold water will:
Boost your white blood cell count:
Taking a dive in the cold fresh water strengthens your immune system by activating its defences against changing conditions. It will improve your blood circulation through veins, artilleries, and capillaries, and push your extremities to endure cold or cold-like conditions.
Be a stronger person:
Enhance your oestrogen and testosterone production, increasing your libido and fertility!
Shake off your Stress:
Give you a natural high with a powerful shot of de-stressing endorphins! Warning… the pleasant sensation of outdoor swimming can become addictive (a good, worthwhile addiction)!
Cold Water Boosts Blood Flow
You might expect a British lake or river to be something other than a swimming haven where the water rarely exceeds 20 degrees Celsius. But the chilly water can do wonders for your blood circulation. When your body senses the cold, it shifts blood away from the skin to keep warm. It’s like the opposite of what happens in a sauna.
This process is fantastic for getting your blood pumping and is even used in fancy spas as ‘cold water therapy.’ But you can try it for free in the wild.
Excellent for Exercise
Swimming is the most natural way to stay fit, especially for older folks. The water supports much of your weight, making it easier on your joints. Whether in a pool or outdoors, swimming builds muscle and provides a good cardio workout. Plus, it boosts flexibility, reducing stiffness and the risk of falls.
Better Mental Health
Regular exercise is a double win, improving your physical and mental health. Wild swimming also acts as a great distraction from life’s worries. When you’re in the water, you focus on your swimming and the beautiful surroundings, leaving no room for everyday stress.
On top of that, research shows that plunging into cold water can increase your dopamine levels (the happy hormone) by over 500%. Wild swimmers call this the ‘post-swim high.’ Cold swims also trigger your body to release endorphins like natural pain relievers.
Wild swimming groups have been on the rise across the UK for a while now, and the trend got even bigger when swimming pools closed during the pandemic.
Swimming with a group is much safer than going solo. Plus, many swimmers make great friends in their groups, meeting up for weekly or daily dips in local waters. Check out the Outdoor Swimming Society’s list to find a wild swimming group near you.
Connecting With Nature
Lastly, wild swimming allows you to get back in touch with nature. In today’s fast-paced world, many spend all their time in cities. A 2019 study found that people who spent at least 2 hours in nature each week had better overall well-being.
With so many beautiful natural spots around the UK, you don’t have to travel far to discover your new favorite swimming spot.
Wild Swimming Safety Tips:
Now, while the rush of post-swim joy is fantastic, staying safe is important. Once you know how, there’s no need to fear taking a dip.
We know that most people – especially a bunch of teenagers, for example – won’t think twice about wading and paddling in open water, but it is essential to be aware of and take safety precautions so that everyone can have the best experience!
Following these recommendations, which are in line with expert advice, to ensure a safe and enjoyable wild swimming adventure:
Never Swim Alone
For safety, always swim with a friend or a group. Letting someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back is a good idea. Even experienced swimmers understand that accidents can happen, so it’s better to be safe.
Know Your Limits
You’re in charge of your safety. Stick to shallower lakes and river pools while you’re still new to wild swimming, where the current is less of a concern. Be sure of your swimming skills before you enter the water. Carefully study the area before getting in and plan how you’ll get in and out.
Consider getting a wetsuit. While it might feel strange, it can protect you from the cold. Keep dry clothes and a towel nearby. If it rains, put them in a bag to keep them dry. When you get out of the water, dry off quickly and put on dry clothes, starting with your top half.
Avoid Jumping In
“Cold water shock” is your body’s response to a sudden temperature change, making you gasp. If you jump in, this shock could happen underwater, which is very dangerous. Instead, wade in slowly to let your body get used to the temperature. Keep your face above water until you control your breathing. Jumping in also risks injury from slippery rocks or underwater weeds. Stay safe, and have a blast in the great outdoors!
Be Cautious of the Naked Dips
Avoid venturing naked if the water is really freezing or if you are in a crowded, non-nudist location. It is much better for your health to wear a proper swimming costume or wetsuit for insulation in chilly waters. If it floats your boat to get naked in a remote or empty location (beach, lake, river, etc.), and you judge it is safe to do so, go for it: just be sure to follow the etiquette!
Dipping in the murky water places may require swimmers to wear swim goggles for ultimate protection from saltwater and various elements.
Keep Dry Clothes nearby:
Always keep a stack of warm and dry clothes/towels nearby for changing immediately after a brisk or prolonged swim trip.
Where To Go ‘Wild’ For Swimming?
Wild swimming has always been popular in UK, particularly in the summertime in the warmer south of England. Here is a list of popular swimming locations if you are a first-time wild swimmer in Enlgand looking for an expedition spot:
- Outney Common, River Waveney, Suffolk
- Sharrah Pool, River Dart, Dartmoor
- Kelmscott, River Thames, Oxfordshire
- Galleny Force, Stonethwaite, Lake District
- Anchor Inn, River Ouse, Sussex
Do you know any good swimming spots near where you live? Where’s your favourite place to go for a wild swim? Have you got any special memories of swimming outdoors? Let us know in the comments below!