The Benefits of Swimming in Cold Water


Teresa Leese; Total Motion Events; 18th March 2018

With all the recent hype around the physical and mental benefits of swimming in cold water, it has got us thinking… Can diving into a freezing cold pool/lake/river/ocean on a grey and rainy morning in the UK really be that good for you?! Apparently so…

To put it into perspective, an indoor heated swimming pool will likely be somewhere in the region of 25-28°C and will start to feel pretty chilly at 21°C. British Triathlon insist that wetsuits are mandatory for competition in water below 14°C and it is unsafe to swim in anything below 11°C. Fresh water pools and open water will range from between 0-20°C throughout the year with people swimming in them all year round even at the lowest temperatures. But why?

Boost your immune system

It has been found that the stress caused by the shock of cold water to the body, actually activates the immune system which we all know is key to fighting off those germs and infections and staying healthier for longer.  To receive the real benefits of a boosted immune system experts say it is necessary to be exposed to cold water on a regular basis (2-3 times per week) as opposed to just once or twice a year.

Be Happier

Much like other exercise, swimming will increase the number of endorphins in your body. However, take a swim in COLD water and you can multiply the number of endorphins by 10! If anyone watched the BBC One programme ‘The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs’ you may have seen Dr Mark Harper trialling his theory on there, that cold water swimming is a treatment for depression. The results saw a woman that had been on antidepressants for eight years coming off them and managing her symptoms by swimming in the local lake. Dr Harper is very clear that his theory is still in its infancy but there is definitely a correlation there…

Burn more calories

Your body will work twice as hard in cold water compared with regular swimming as it is fighting so hard to keep you warm. It is not going to build muscle or help you to perfect the perfect hand entry, however it will help you shed any excess pounds and probably help you to appreciate a regulated swimming pool that much more!

Reduce Inflammation

This study suggests that swimming in cold water can reduce swelling and help with inflammation therefore aiding recovery and preventing delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMs). Furthermore it is also known to improve your body’s circulation as the heart tries to pump more blood to your organs.

Take the plunge!

If like me, you think it’s exciting to try new things and to challenge yourself then why not give it a go. Cold water swimming is not just for triathletes or super sporty people, anyone can do it! But one word of warning, your friends and family may well think you are mad. If you do decide to try swimming in cold water for the first time, please do so in a sensible and safe environment. Check out these tips from South London Swimming Club on staying safe in the water – click here.


London is full of fantastic places to dip your toe in the (cold) water:

Tooting Bec Lido

  • 100 yards (91.44m) - Largest lido in the UK!
  • Open to the public in summer

Hampstead Heath Ponds

  • The Ladies' and Men's Ponds are the UK's only lifeguarded open water swimming facilities open to the public every day of the year. The mixed pool will open to public in the summer.

Parliament Hill Fields Lido

  • 60m
  • Open year round

Serptentine Lido

  • 30x100m swim area
  • Open May to September 

Brockwell Lido

  • 50m
  • Open year round

London Royal Docks

  • Open year round

Hillingdon (Uxbridge) Lido

  • 50m
  • Open year round



The Total Motion Aquathlon is back for 2018 at Tooting Bec Lido, consisting of an 810m swim followed by a 7.3km run. Secure your place on the start line – register now.