Surprising Benefits Of Swimming In Cold Water

Written by GHBY Team on Tue, 05 September 2023 — Fact checked by Jillian Lai Mei Siew

Key Highlights

  • Cold water swimming, in temperatures below 18°C, is an ever-growing trend where swimmers take to chilly open waters like lakes, rivers, and seas.
  • Even a short swim in cold water benefits various parts and processes of the body, from the mind to the internal circulatory system.
  • Regular exposure to cold water helps you increase tolerance and boosts your immune system, but strict rules must be followed for a safe swim.

Often known by many names such as ice water swimming or winter swimming, cold water swimming involves taking a dip in chilly waters with temperatures below 18°C or 64°F. While mostly done in natural water bodies like lakes, rivers, and beaches, one can also take a cold plunge in an outdoor swimming pool.

But does a cold water swim for the mind and overall health really work? Keep reading to find the answer because we are going to break down this increasingly popular health trend while also mentioning some important cold water swimming benefits, for your benefit!

Top benefits of swimming in cold water

Top benefits of swimming in cold water

A good mood booster

  • Swimming in cold water benefits your mental health to a large extent. The biggest one among them is the instant activation of endorphins. When the body is exposed to cold water, the sudden shock can temporarily push the body to a certain pain threshold that causes the release of endorphins. This is because the body’s natural response to any stressor is to release feel-good hormones to help us cope with it.
  • When you indulge in an activity as challenging as an icy swim, your endorphins also trigger the body’s reward centers to release dopamine. In fact, research has shown that this activity can increase dopamine by up to 530%!

More mindfulness, less stress

  • That being said, it is true that when you try cold-water immersion for the first time, the stress reaction produced by the body can be high. But this is exactly what improves your stress response, even out of the water.
  • When your body temperature adjusts to the cold water, the initial response also reduces and the more often you subject yourself to these cold waters, the better your stress response becomes.
  • A cold water swim benefits even the most busy minds, helping you reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall well-being. When in cold water, your mind is mostly just focused on reducing the stress response, calming the body, and controlling the breath. This increases mindfulness and being in the present moment, in between nature and blue waters.

An anti-Inflammatory activity

  • You know that an ice pack can help reduce inflammation due to a sprain or any other injury. The same idea works for a cold water swim. Many athletes are even known to take icy water dips to bring down pain due to sports injuries or muscle fatigue.
  • So how does it reduce inflammation? When exposed to low temperatures, the blood vessels in the body tighten and restrict blood flow to an injured or sore area like limbs and muscles. This is because the body wants to keep the core organs warm in such chilly conditions by directing the blood away from external organs.
  • Due to this, researchers are also actively studying how icy water swimming benefits people with chronic pain, PTSD, migraines, and more and can alleviate symptoms by numbing the pain.

Strengthens the immune system

  • Many researchers have studied (and continue to study) the effects of cold water on immunity. What was noticed is that the body’s reaction to a sudden stressor, like extremely cold temperatures, is to produce more white blood cells and antioxidants to combat the potential danger.
  • Continuous exposure to cold through winter swimming thus enhances the body’s natural defense systems. This makes it more adaptable and resilient to certain illnesses and diseases.

Improves circulation

  • We already know that one of the physiological reactions that occur when the body plunges into cold water is that blood rushes to the core to protect the vital organs and keep them warm. Because of this, the body is forced to increase blood circulation and redistribute the blood.
  • Ultimately, increased circulation can also enhance the delivery of new, oxygenated blood to organs and cells that need them while removing toxins from the bloodstream, making it one of the top benefits of swimming in cold water.
  • The more you take these chilly swims, the more your body adapts to the temperatures and improves blood circulation.

Increases metabolism and helps manage weight

  • Cold water swimming is a great exercise for those who want to manage their weight, as it helps expend energy faster than most other activities!
  • Soaking in cold water causes your body to work harder and use up more energy from the calories in your body, to maintain the internal body temperature. This process leads to an increase in your metabolism, even up to an average of 100 calories used per hour.
  • So, regular cold water swims benefit those who wish to burn more calories or fat without taking the dieting route.

Tips to make the most of cold water swimming benefits

Tips to make the most of cold water swimming benefits

After reading about the advantages of cold water swimming, you might want to rush and have your first dip in the icy waves. But before you do, remember that precautions and beginner tips must be followed to ensure you have a safe swimming experience and avoid cold shock or hypothermia

  1. Acclimatize: Starting your first swim in 12°C waters is a recipe for disaster. Instead, first build your body’s tolerance by taking cold showers and baths, or swimming in waters with slightly higher temperatures and then slowly moving towards colder waves.
  2. Plan and partner up: When swimming outdoors, be sure to swim at a spot where you can easily get out of the waters if it gets too cold. Also, be sure to bring a buddy along or swim with a group as it is never wise to go cold swimming in open waters alone.
  3. Warm up before: To help your body increase its core temperature, try to warm up on dry land with a jog or jumping jacks before getting into the water. This will help you better deal with the initial cold shock while also loosening your muscles.
  4. Get the right gear: While some are comfortable with their normal swimwear, others might need a wetsuit. You can even opt for neoprene thermal swimsuits, boots, and gloves, especially if your hands and feet get cold very quickly. A neoprene or silicone cap is a must to help you stay safe while experiencing all the cold water swimming benefits. 
  5. Don’t jump right in: Ease yourself in by slowly getting into the water and wading through until you can feel your breath is more controlled. Don’t just dive in as you can face a sudden cold shock.
  6. Warm up immediately after: Keep your jackets, towels, and other warm clothes right at your exit point as it is important to warm yourself as soon as you get out, thanks to the after-drop in internal temperature. Remove your wet clothes, wrap yourself up in thick, insulated layers, and sip on a warm drink.


If you follow the right precautions and tips, reaping the benefits of swimming in cold water becomes a thrilling and enjoyable experience. There is no doubt that practicing this regularly can work wonders for your overall health.

Just be sure to start slow, with shorter swims, and then increase your swim time, the more experienced you get with the waters and the temperature!

Frequently Asked Questions

The list is endless: right from improved blood circulation and boosting the immune system to increased metabolism which aids in quicker burning of fat to promoting mental wellbeing. Cold water swimming also reduces inflammation and pain while helping the body release the right hormones for better mental wellness. To know more about the benefits, check out our list above.

Yes, it can facilitate improved circulation by constricting the flow of blood in arteries, redirecting it to internal organs like the heart and lungs, and flushing out toxins in the blood. This increases the efficiency of blood flow and delivery of oxygen in the blood.

Yes. Cold-water immersion can boost the immune system by triggering an increase in white blood cells, which helps in fighting off infections. Regular exposure to cold water can increase this response in the body, creating an enhanced immune system in the long run.

Cold water swimming combines a challenging and rewarding activity with exposure to cold water. This pushes the body to release endorphins and dopamine, both of which are feel-good hormones. It enhances a euphoric feeling, reduces stress, and promotes mood improvement, all of which ensure mental wellbeing.

Exposing the body to the cold temperatures of the water causes peripheral vasoconstriction, where the blood vessels narrow and push blood away from the extremities. As blood does not rush to the injured or sore parts, it aids in reduced inflammation and helps in pain relief as well as quicker recovery.



GHBY Team comprises content writers and content editors who specialise in health and lifestyle writing. Always on the lookout for new trends in the health and lifestyle space, Team GHBY follows an audience-first approach. This ensures they bring the latest in the health space to your fingertips, so you can stay ahead in your wellness game. 

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Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Sep, 05 2023

Written By


Fact checked By

Jillian Lai Mei Siew