How to Stay Safe and Warm in Cold Water

September 14, 2023

Cold water swimming offers a range of health benefits. The phenomenon has caught on in the last few years, so if you own a plunge pool or any other type of backyard pool, you might be keen to try it. However, winter swimming also presents a number of risks that must be carefully considered.

 In this article, we’ll discuss how to stay warm in cold water and also let you know some of the risks and benefits of cold-water swimming.


The risks of swimming in cold water

We’ll touch on the benefits of cold-water swimming soon, but it’s very important to understand the risks. This activity isn’t for everyone, and we recommend consulting a health professional before diving in for your first winter swim. Some of the risks include: 

  •       Hypothermia: Symptoms include shivering, numbness, fatigue and confusion. Hypothermia occurs from prolonged exposure to cold conditions.
  •       Cardiac arrest: If you have an existing heart condition, cold water shock can trigger a cardiac arrest.
  •       Drowning risk: Like any type of water, drowning is always a risk. Cold water can lead to muscle cramps, making it difficult to move.
  •       Diuresis: Exposure to cold water increases urine production, which can cause dehydration.
  •       Cold shock: If you immerse yourself in cold water too quickly, you may gasp for air, make poor decisions, inhale water or even hyperventilate.

 The tips in this article will help you avoid these situations, however, it is paramount that you always put your own safety first. Consult with a doctor before winter swimming, and always be mindful of how long you spend in the water.


The benefits of cold water swimming

Those who regularly swim in cold water report a massive range of benefits. The list is almost endless, from feeling more energised after a morning swim to achieving natural pain relief. Some of the benefits include: 

  •       Improved mood: Cold water helps you release endorphins, which are your body’s natural mood elevators.
  •       Lower stress levels: Cold water helps to reduce the levels of your body’s stress hormone, cortisol.
  •       Better circulation: Get a circulation boost from the cold water.
  •       Resilience: Jumping in cold water is difficult, therefore helping you boost mental and physical toughness.
  •       Pain relief: Swimming in cold water is like a natural analgesic. The cold helps to reduce inflammation and ease pain.
  •       Alertness: The shock of winter swimming is like an adrenaline rush, increasing heart rate and oxygen intake. As a result, you feel more alert.
  •       Increased metabolism: Many say swimming in cold water improves their metabolism and aids weight loss.

 These are just a few of the benefits, but the list goes on and on. Overall, winter swimming is a great way to stay healthy, mentally alert, and get the exercise you need. Let’s look at some tips for how to stay warm while swimming in cold water.


Wear a wetsuit

It’s perhaps a very obvious suggestion, but wetsuits are a great way to stay warm in cold water. When you think about wetsuits, you probably think about the beach. But wearing a wetsuit is handy even in the backyard pool, especially if the mercury has dropped. Most wetsuits are made from neoprene material that insulates your body, even in cold water. You can buy them in various thicknesses, depending on your needs.

 It’s important to note that thicker wetsuits, while being warmer, also restrict your movement. So, always look for a balance between warmth and comfort to ensure you stay warm in cold water.


Acclimatise yourself

The idea of diving straight into a cold pool might seem invigorating; however, it’s a risky option. When you fully immerse yourself in cold water, suddenly, your body can go into shock. You may struggle for air, hyperventilate, or even experience muscle cramps that restrict your movement. As such, it’s never a good idea to dive straight in, no matter how seasoned you are in the water.

 Rather, take some time to acclimatise yourself. Walk into the water slowly, or even lower yourself carefully using your ladder. If you do intend to do more cold swimming, contact your pool builder if you need a ladder installed. Not only does a slow approach help you get used to the cold water, but it can also build a better tolerance for it over time.


Warm up first

You might think it is counterintuitive to warm yourself up before getting into a pool of cold water. You’re going to get cold anyway, right? Warming yourself up first can allow your blood to circulate more freely, making your body better equipped to deal with the harsh water. You don’t want to overdo this, though.

 When you enter the cold water, your brain will automatically signal that your body needs to warm up. It’s like built-in protection all humans have to deal with cold conditions. So, if you’ve already got your blood flowing, your body has a head start on getting warm. You can try anything from jogging, stretching or even something quick like jumping jacks.


Keep moving

When you finally enter the water, you need to ensure you keep moving. Movement helps to circulate blood throughout your body, warming you up in the process. If you stand still in the water, you’ll likely be shivering and putting yourself at risk of hypothermia. But when you move, your body naturally generates heat even in the coldest conditions.

 So, as soon as you get into the water and feel comfortable, ensure you move around. If you haven’t gone under the water yet, walk around the pool in the shallow area. Once you’re ready to swim, keep going at a steady, even pace to keep your body warm.


Stay away from alcohol

If you plan on entering cold water, you must avoid alcohol. One effect of consuming alcohol is dilated blood vessels. When this occurs, your body loses body heat fast. Essentially, when your blood thins from alcohol consumption, it doesn’t warm your body effectively.

 In addition, alcohol impairs your judgment and leads to poor decision-making. You may feel like you’re relatively safe in the backyard pool, but even a small mistake in cold water can have disastrous consequences.


Swim with someone else

Being in any body of water alone comes with an element of risk. But a cold body of water is even more dangerous, and therefore, it’s best to swim with another person. Not only does this create a social atmosphere, but it can also be a lifesaver.

Even experienced cold-water swimmers can experience cramps, shock or any other conditions we mentioned when discussing the risks. If you’ve got a friend or family member nearby, you can help each other should anything go wrong.


Eating and drinking

While you don’t want to overeat immediately before swimming as it can cause you to get a stitch, you should swim in cold water on a completely empty stomach. Carbohydrates are the best foods to consume because they help generate body heat simply through the digestive process. Naturally, something warm is better than cold food.

 In addition, monitor your water intake. Dehydration is a very real risk, even in cold conditions. Your body can regulate its temperature more effectively when you’re well hydrated. So, ensure you have something to eat and drink before your cold swim.


Limit your cold water exposure

Hypothermia is a dangerous condition that occurs after prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Some of the symptoms to look out for include shivering, numbness, fatigue and confusion. If you don’t feel right, get out of the water and dry off immediately. If you’re new to cold swimming, you should take extra precautions and keep your time in the water brief.

 As time goes on, you’ll gradually be able to cope with longer periods in the water, but it’s best to build this up. Staying warm in cold water isn’t easy, but with the right knowledge and precautions, you can enjoy all the benefits of winter swimming for years.


Warm up quickly afterwards

Even when your swim is finished, your body can still react badly to the cold conditions. This is especially true if the weather is cold or windy. As soon as you step out of the water, you’ll no doubt feel a rush of cold that’s even less comfortable than the water. So, have everything ready so you can warm up quickly.

 First, ensure you have a towel and some dry clothes handy. You’ll want to dry yourself and get into warm clothes as quickly as possible, especially if you can’t go straight inside where it’s warmer. Also, bring a thermos with a hot drink. Consuming hot/warm liquids helps to heat your body from the inside and raise your core temperature.

 If you need an experienced pool company to assist with a pool design, construction and even set you up for safe winter swimming, contact Blue Haven Pools today. We design and build stunning pools, from smaller plunge and lap pools to larger inground and mineral pools. Make Blue Haven your first choice for a touch of luxury right there at home.

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