- Swimming in cold water may hold therapeutic benefits for both mind and body.
- Researchers are conducting a study on a group of UK swimmers to find out how it works.
- One theory is that it might be due to the anti-inflammatory effect of cold water.
Waves crashing on the shore, the rhythm of the currents and the salty freshness on your skin – these are some of the reasons why people love swimming in the ocean.
And, as it turns out, a dip in cold seawater can be very therapeutic, according to an ongoing study.
READ: This is what swimming in the ocean is doing to your skin
Freezing UK waters
The BBC reports that researchers are investigating the effect of cold seawater on a group of swimmers in Croyde, a small seaside village in the UK.
Called Chill Sea Sessions, the group therapy project aims to help those who suffer from depression and anxiety.
It involves multiple one-hour sessions of swimming in cold ocean water that teaches one to build up a resilience against the cold.
One participant found it helped her cope with menopause and the change in moods that came with it.
The free sessions provide a safe space for those with mild to moderate symptoms, but it requires a reasonable level of swimming fitness to participate. They also advise partaking in the sessions without a wetsuit because the colder you get, the more beneficial the therapy will be.
The therapy, however, is not designed to replace medication – it supplements conventional therapy.
WATCH: Woman who broke her back after falling 30 feet from a cliff finds comfort in ice swimming
Two main theories
The researchers' first theory is that adapting to the cold water reduces a person's reaction to the stress that the low temperatures trigger and helps one become more resilient to stress in general.
The second theory is that the cold has an anti-inflammatory effect, and that constant exposure reduces inflammation levels on a long-term basis.
Earlier research has found that inflammation has an impact on mental health via the brain, and is a major contributor to many other diseases.
Final results still outstanding
The study will release its findings in six months' time, hopefully confirming one or both of these theories. The results are, however, already looking promising and could be the start of a new type of treatment.
If you want to try cold water therapy in South Africa, you'll find more than enough cold ocean water around Cape Town and along the West Coast.
READ MORE: Swimming and your hearing: what you need to know
Image credit: Pixabay