WILD water swimming has appealed to the masses in the UK, with more and more people taking the plunge into open water.
With proven benefits for physical and mental health, outdoor swimming is becoming very popular all year round.
The sport has become so popular that now those involved with it claim that participation may have increased as much as three times since 2019.
Research conducted by Outdoor Swimmer indicates that 81% of outdoor swimmers see it as especially important or essential to their general sense of well-being.
Ella Foote, Contributing Editor of Outdoor Swimmer said: “We estimate that participation in outdoor swimming in the UK has increased by between 1.5 and 3 times since 2019.
“Outdoor swimming is a very social activity, so as well as reaping the benefits of natural daylight, fresh air and connecting with nature, it can also help with isolation/friendships.
“There is still limited scientific data, but it is widely reported that it helps with depression. 69.4% of our survey said that outdoor swimming is essential for their mental health.”
Since the first lockdown in March 2020, Outdoor swimmer has had 957,092 visits on their website which is an Increase of 177% from the previous year.
Edinburgh based wild water swimming group Chilly Dippers was set up for students to have a safe space to talk about mental health.
Founded by Olivia Sharron, Chilly Dippers encourages students from all over the country to swim in cold lakes and rivers with the knowledge that cold water increases adrenaline and endorphins which helps with mental health.
Olivia Sharron said: “I think if COVID has taught us anything, is that ultimately you are just about able to hide yourself away from everything in the world, but yourself!
“Therefore it’s really important to look after your mind and exercise it as you would looking after your physical health.
“I think the social aspect of swimming has really allowed for communities to be built and generate a greater conversation around mental health.
“Cold-water swimming has been praised for relieving relative stresses and anxieties through the icy-shock providing a release of Endorphins and an increase in Adrenaline.
“It’s a space where your body hits the ‘Fight or Flight’ mode, sidelining all other problems to help you focus on how you will simply stay afloat.”
A cold UK winter did not put swimmers off as 1 in 10 claim they swim outside in winter four times per week according to a swimming news outlet.
Sarah Redman, 48, is currently completing an open water swimming coaching qualification as she hopes to get others into wild water swimming.
She said: “I have swum all through the winter; the anticipation of getting in to a frozen loch is absolutely amazing.
“Outdoor swimming defiantly helps with my mental health; it gives me time to switch off from everyday life.
Sarah has also made the Facebook page Swim The Lochs in the hope of getting more people involved in outdoor swimming.
Sarah added: “I love The feeling of empowerment. If my body can get in to a frozen loch, I can do anything, and it’s something I am now teaching my teenage daughter.
“I am now so passionate about others experiencing the thrill of wild swimming I am completing my open water swimming coaching qualification so that I can safely offer open water experiences in my local lochs.”
Angela Taylor, 60, joined the group Fife Wild Swimmers this year as she is newly retired and wanted a new challenge.
She said: “I was intrigued by the fact that people did this all year round in Scotland when the water can be very cold even in summer.
“Initially I was advised to start in the summer when the water and outside temperature was warmer but as I decided this would be a 2021 challenge we started in January.
“I love the challenge of achieving something new, and whilst it is becoming very popular it is not for everyone so it is always good to try something different, especially if there are physical and mental health benefits.”