New Research Highlights Well-being as Key to Cold Water Swimming Mania

Over 600 people will be taking part in South London Swimming Club’s (SLSC) 2015 UK Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido in South London on Saturday 24th January. And a lot of people will wonder why sane folk jump into icy water and then come back for more.

Research by undertaken the SLSC at the previous Championships in 2013 but only now released, finds that cold water swimmers believe that a chilly dip promotes well-being in the mind and body. Many describe the practice as additive and one in three believe it is ‘almost as good as an orgasm!’

Some 300 swimmers took part in the survey and three quarters believed that cold water swimming is addictive and that it improves circulation and the immune system. Half believed that it improves metabolism and complexion. And one in four believed that it burns up fat and improves libido.

Most agreed that cold water swimming helps alleviate depression. The consensus was that braving the cold connects them with the natural world and people from all walks of life. It boosts self-confidence and resilience, provides great camaraderie and encourages an alternative view of life.

These are some of the things that swimmers wrote about the joys of swimming in the cold:  ‘It makes me feel alive and gives me a buzz … The challenge and the feel good factor afterwards … Love the weather elements … To experience nature in a different way …

‘To get out of the comfort zone and push myself a bit … Love the water, nature, outdoors, community and conviviality … It’s a mind over matter thing and you feel great afterwards … I like to meet the elements in winter rather than staying cocooned.’

That said, those surveyed also pointed to some of the downsides of cold water swimming: ‘Without a sauna it can take a while to warm up; and sometimes during this your brain is not your best ally … Below 2°C numbness and tingling in fingers can result and last a few months.

‘Overdoing it and then having a hot shower afterwards can make you feel unwell – better to towel dry and warm up with hot drink … Warming up can take longer than the swim … Soggy socks and chilly boobs … Aggravates Reynaud’s disease … Divorce … Wife bans me from bed.

Research Chart Body Research chart MindThe research is published in Cool Swimming by Jonathan PD Buckley. This basic guide to cold water swimming includes the research results, an overview of scientific research, a potted history of cold water therapy and South London Swimming Club’s tips on safe cold swimming.

Cool Swimming is at: Additional links and information at Infographic at

The survey was undertaken in November-December 2013. About 80% of those surveyed were over 40 years old, with slightly more women than men taking part. Most had swum in freezing conditions. Half swam a couple of times a week, one in ten swam every day and a third swam now and then.

Many swam at Tooting Bec Lido but others took their cold water swimming where they could; up and down the country and overseas in Ireland, the USA, Canada and Latvia. It seems that cold water swimmers will do it wherever they can; in lakes, seas, dams, rivers, lochs, lidos and ponds.

Jonathan Buckley discovered Tooting Bec Lido in the 1980s and has been swimming there ever since. He is a member of South London Swimming Club and when he is not down at the Lido, he plays guitar and works as a writer and market communications consultant. .

Further information: contact Jonathan Buckley on or 07985575261.

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