As part of last week’s Senior Health & Fitness Day, we spoke with Ice Swimming Legend and real life super hero Wim Hof to explain the health & well-being benefits of natural swimming.
Natural swimming is the modern name for something humans have done since they first existed on earth. So, it’s no real surprise that people all over the world are rediscovering the joy of natural swimming and see it as a fun way to connect with nature, cleanse the body, and get some valuable exercise.
But evidence suggests there is more to it. It has been noted by many researchers and natural swimmers that natural swimming can significantly improve your health, well-being and state of mind.
There has been a great deal of scientific interest in recent years in how we interact with nature and how our lives in the modern world are disconnected from the natural structures and symbiotic relationships that sustained the human race before technology arrived.
The theory is that we are simply too comfortable, too warm, always fed and nurtured and rarely pushed beyond our limits. This means that our bodies’ vital systems, such as our cardio vascular system, are being under-worked, impacting our ability to cope with diseases and stresses.
Wim Hof, an ice swimmer and advocate of this theory, has gained a lot of support for his ideas, and boasts a vast base of followers. His uncanny, seemingly super-human abilities to control his body in extreme conditions and combat the impacts of modern life on the body have drawn peoples interests from around the globe.
So how good is he? Well, he has 21 Guinness world records for incredible feats including:
- Running a marathon in sandals above the Arctic circle wearing only shorts
- Running 1/2 a marathon barefoot above the Arctic circle wearing only shorts
- Officially swam under ice for 66 meters, unofficially swam under ice for 120 meters with one breath
- Hanging on one finger at an altitude of 2000 meters
- Climbing the highest mountains on earth in only shorts
- Heat tests with a constant body temperature
- Full marathon in the Namib desert without water consumption
Along with a demonstrated ability to endure extreme temperatures Wim believes that the meditation techniques he uses can boost your immune system and fight many common ailments including heart disease, one of the biggest killers in the west.
We were lucky enough to interview Wim about natural swimming:
CWR: When and why did you first start natural swimming?
Wim Hof: ‘I first got into the cold natural water 41 years ago. It was a way of triggering a connection deep into my own physiology. I first did it in the winter when there was a thin layer of ice on the water and I just got in. From then on I started to do it every day as it felt so good and when something feels good you go back to it. It gives me a rush of energy as it activates my body and mind and forces a deep concentration.’
CWR: Can you describe the feeling of swimming in natural water?
Wim Hof: ‘You go into something deep. Your mind just stops minding about whatever else is going on and you can focus in on yourself. When in cold water, the adrenaline shoots out through your body. What happens is beyond words, you activate a very strong sensation within yourself which is always there, but not normally activated. If you don’t do it you’re missing out!’
CWR: How can natural swimming benefit your health?
Wim Hof: ‘The number 1 killer within the west is cardiovascular related diseases. It is because we are alienated from our vascular system. It is not being activated… not being stimulated! This is because we spend all our time in a warm, comfortable environment. If you just go into the cold, you reactivate these systems.’
CWR: What is the one thing you would recommend to stay healthy throughout your life?
Wim Hof: ‘If we want to tackle cardiovascular diseases in the West, then we have to learn to gradually expose ourselves to the natural condition of our vascular system. That is done by first cold showers and then going into natural bodies of water and swimming outside. I always recommend swimming outside in natural bodies of water every day. This will keep the doctor away by stimulating the natural state of your body!’
CWR: What is your view on swimming in chlorine vs swimming in natural water?
Wim Hof: ‘Our bodies are built to deal with all of the natural bacteria in water and it’s important that we continue to adapt to them by exposing ourselves to nature. We cannot keep nature out of us! What we have done with the chemical industry is to let chemicals inside of our bodies through the food we eat and through chlorine in swimming pools etc. It is messing with the natural chemistry of nature and humans and it’s not right. Scientific studies show that the properties of natural water are beneficial to us and chlorine is killing it. Chlorine is no good.’
For more info on chlorine free swimming visit Clear Water Revival‘s natural pools page.
CWR: Will you be visiting the UK soon to educate people on your methods?
Wim Hof: ‘I would love to come to the UK! I was in London recently and did a talk which was well received. I will come to swim in one of your natural swimming pools soon! If people in the UK want to learn my ice swimming methods they can visit my website.’
Here are five examples of the health benefits of natural swimming:
1. It has shown to improve and stimulate the immune system
2. It triggers the release of endorphins which lead to a feeling of happiness and contentment
3. It increases and stimulates circulation
4. It is fantastic exercise
5. It connects you with nature which is proven to reduce stress and anxiety