The Health Benefits of Winter Swimming & Sauna

I started Winter Swimming and Sauna’ing a few years ago at Bondi Icebergs when I was introduced to the cold shivers by one of my best friends and now I’m proud to say I’m a complete regular.

I love it because it actually makes me feel like I’ve been ‘re-born’ and that my body has been ‘detoxed’ in the space of only an hour. There’s something incredibly therapeutic and mentally clearing, going from the cold water to a steaming hot sauna and repeating multiple times.

Thinking of taking up winter or cold water swimming yourself? Here’s why you should definitely consider making it part of your weekly routine for your health.

Photo by Amaury Tréguer (Morning Bondi)

Boosts Metabolism

Cold water baths or swimming in cold water boosts Metabolism through increased blood circulation and increasing metabolic activity focused on generating internal heat to keep our body warm.

Stimulates Parasympathetic System & Releases Endorphins

Cold water also stimulates our parasympathetic system, which is responsible for rest and repair. This stimulation can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression.There is a natural high that comes from the rush of endorphins on entering the water. The endorphin rush happens quickly and makes you feel alive and happy!

Improves Blood Circulation

Studies has shown that your body adapts to the cold with repeated exposure and this may improve your circulation to your core and to your extremities. Cold water swims help flush your circulation by pushing blood through all your capillaries, veins and arteries. The rapid initial cooling of the skin triggers various heart and breathing responses. Breathing rates will increase suddenly. The heart rate can increase by 50%.

Improves Libido and Fertility

Researchers have also found that cold water swimming and bathing could increase production of testosterone and estrogen in men and women respectively. In addition to enhancing libido in both sexes, these hormones also play an important role in fertility.

Improves Skin Health and Tone

Cold water swimming will exfoliate and cleanse your skin by flushing impurities from it, thereby helping your complexion and skin tone. My skin always feel clean and vibrant after taking a swim in cold water and looks more healthy. My cheeks get the best blush colour out there!

Helps Build and Maintain Strong Immune System

Researchers have found significant increases in white blood cell counts and several other factors relating to the immune system when you continue to winter swim. This was attributed to the cold water being a mild stressor which activates the immune system and gives it some practice through stress. All of this helps – particularly in winter – to keep your immune system strong and you free from the flu or colds!

Photo by Amaury Tréguer (Morning Bondi)

But, of course it doesn’t stop here.. Combine all of this with benefits of the in’s/out’s of the Sauna to:

Enhanced endurance

Clinical trials have shown that as little as three weeks of post-swim sauna-use produce a significant improvement of endurance running performance due to an increased blood volume.

Cardiovascular health

Clinical trials have shown that saunas have a beneficial effect upon cardiovascular health and appear to be particularly beneficial for high blood pressure. Regular and repeated sauna use have a positive effect upon the health and function of arteries. Saunas have also been shown to have positive effects upon blood pressure and circulation in patients suffering from high blood pressure. Always check with your physician before using a sauna if you have high blood pressure or heart problems.

Immune Function

Regular sauna use has been shown to reduce the incidence of the common cold and your immune system will also benefit from the enhanced detoxification that sauna use brings about.

Weight loss

Just like a jog around the block, spending time in a sauna results in extra calories being burnt for energy as your body and heart are forced to adjust to the heat. Regular sauna use may assist in weight loss and maintenance. The key here is to make it regular, just like exercise.

Detoxification

By helping to move toxins out of your body via your skin and sweat glands, you’re doing your body a huge favour. Detoxification through your skin means toxins do not have to re-enter your blood stream with the potential to cause further damage before being excreted via your kidneys. We live in an increasingly toxic world and you’re exposed to toxins every day through air, food, water and even substances applied to your skin. Toxicity is associated with a range of health problems including fatigue, skin problems, hormonal imbalance and immune disorders.

Aches and Pains

The warm, dry heat of the sauna is relaxing to both your muscles and nervous system. By reducing muscular tension and improving circulation to muscles and joints, saunas are often very effective in reducing a range of aches and pains. You can even stretch in the sauna – it’ll help your flexibility even further.

Caroline xx

Photo by Amaury Tréguer (Morning Bondi)

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