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Wild Swimming: The Benefits for Older People

• Written by Katie

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We've already discussed the many benefits of swimming here on the Lifeline blog. For older people in particular, taking to the water is a great way to exercise. When we think about swimming, most of us would imagine heading to the local pool. However, there are a growing number of people taking the plunge in lakes, rivers, and even the sea! Wild swimming is an exhilarating pastime with plenty of health benefits. Today, we'll be sharing the benefits of wild swimming for older people. We'll also give you some important safety tips for beginners. Let's dive in!

What is Wild Swimming?

Wild swimming is simply the act of swimming outdoors in a natural body of water. It has become more and more popular in recent years, especially among older adults. A survey by Sport England revealed that more than 4 million people enjoyed swimming outside in 2017-18.

This hobby has certainly become rather trendy recently, as more and more of us live in cities spend little time in nature. However, plenty of older people have fond childhood memories of leaping into nearby lakes and ponds in summer.

If you're not a frequent swimmer, or you're used to a lifetime in the pool, the thought of plunging into your local lake or river might seem intimidating. After all, we're hardly known for warm weather here in the UK! While there are a few more safety concerns to be aware of, the thrill of wild swimming is in the name: it's wild!

Benefits of Wild Swimming

Next, let's look at some of the benefits of swimming in the great outdoors.

The Cold Improves Circulation

With water temperatures rarely exceeding 20 degrees Celsius, a British lake or river might be the last place you'd think to go for a swim. However, the cold water can work wonders for circulation. When the body detects a drop in temperature, it directs blood away from the skin's surface towards the organs in order to conserve heat. The same thing happens in reverse when you step into a sauna, for example. These processes are great for getting the blood pumping. In fact, lots of spas offer 'cold water therapy' treatments. Skip the hefty spa price tag and try wild swimming for free.

Excellent Exercise

As we've already discussed here on the Lifeline24 blog, swimming is a wonderful way to exercise, especially for older people. The water will bear much of your weight, reducing impact and strain on your joints. Swimming, whether in a pool or outdoors, is an excellent muscle-builder while also providing a thorough cardiovascular workout. What's more, it can improve flexibility, which helps to reduce the chances of stiffness and falls.

Mental Health Boost

By doing any kind of regular exercise, you will be improving your mental health as well as your physical fitness. Wild swimming also serves as a powerful distraction from problems and worries. When you're in the water, you will naturally concentrate on your technique and your surroundings. There is no room for any of the stress of everyday life.

Similarly, scientific research has found that cold water immersion can boost levels of dopamine (also known as the happy hormone) by more than 500%. Wild swimmers know this sensation as the 'post-swim high'. During and after a cold swim, the body also releases endorphins, which are the body's own natural painkillers!

Swimming Together

Across the UK, wild swimming groups have been growing in numbers for several years. Since the pandemic forced swimming pools to close, swimming outdoors has become even more popular.

Wild swimming in a group is safer by far than going alone. What's more, many swimmers find great friendships in their groups, meeting for weekly or even daily dips in their local waterways. To find a wild swimming group near you, refer to the Outdoor Swimming Society's list here.

One With Nature

Finally, wild swimming gives you the chance to reconnect with nature. In our fast-paced modern society, many of us spend all our time in big towns and cities. A 2019 study showed that those who spent 2 hours or more each week in nature had better overall wellbeing.

With so many breathtaking sites of natural beauty around the UK, you won't have to travel far to find your new favourite swimming spot.

Wild Swimming Safety Tips

Of course, the post-swim rush doesn't come without a few risks. However, once you know how to stay safe, there is no reason to fear going for a swim. Next, we'll share our top swimming safety tips.

Never Swim Alone

For safety reasons, you should always swim with a partner or group. You might also feel better if you let someone else know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. Even the most seasoned swimmers know that accidents can happen, so it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Know Your Limits

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety. While you are still a wild swimming beginner, stick to shallower lakes and river pools, where you will not have to contend with the current. Before wading into the water, make sure you are confident in your swimming ability. Observe the area carefully before you get in and plan your entry and exit points.

Suit Up

It might be wise to invest in a wetsuit. While you might feel a little silly, a wetsuit can help protect you from risks associated with the cold.

You should make sure to keep dry clothes and a towel nearby. If there's a chance of rain, keep them in a carrier bag to stop them getting wet. Once you get out of the water, dry yourself off quickly and dress in dry clothes starting with your top half.

Don't Jump In

'Cold water shock' is the body's automatic response to a sudden and dramatic change in temperature. It causes you to take a sharp breath in. If you jump straight in, your body's cold water shock response could happen underwater, which is extremely dangerous. Instead, you should wade in gradually. Let your body acclimatise to the temperature slowly. Keep your face above water until you have control of your breathing.

Jumping into the water also carries the risk of injury due to slippery rocks or weeds below the surface.

For more wild swimming safety tips, see this detailed list on wildswimming.co.uk

Stay Safe With Lifeline24

Wild Swimming is great way to look after your physical and mental health. But what about protecting your independence? A Lifeline alarm is a great way to stay safe and independent at home. We also offer a fall detector plan. We protect thousands of elderly and disabled people throughout the UK and Ireland, providing all-important peace of mind to them and their loved ones.

For more information, give us a call for free on 0800 999 0400 or send us an email at info@lifeline24.co.uk today. You can also read a guide to the Lifeline alarm service here or order your new Lifeline alarm here for free next-day delivery.

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