As part of Senior Health & Fitness Day we’ve decided to fill you in on the health benefits of natural swimming.
Humans have been swimming in natural bodies of water as long as they have existed on earth. It’s a unique way to connect with nature and cleanse your body. As well as being a truly special experience, it has also been stated by researchers and natural swimmers all over the world 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 becoming increasingly disconnected. The theory is that we are simply too comfortable nowadays. The majority of us in the west are always warm, always fed and nurtured and are rarely pushed beyond our limits. The effect of this is that vital systems in our body such as our cardio vascular system are being switched off and desensitized as they are so underworked. This has an impact on how well our bodies cope with diseases and stresses.
A pioneer of this theory is a man from the Netherlands called Wim Hof. He’s something of a legend amongst his vast base of followers due to his uncanny, seemingly super-human abilities to put his body through extreme conditions. 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 Mount Everest in only shorts
- Heat tests with a constant body temperature
- Full marathon in the Namib desert without water consumption
Evident the from the above, his main ability is to endure extreme temperatures. However, he also claims that the techniques he uses to endure the cold can be used to boost your immune system and fight many common diseases including heart conditions, the biggest cause of death in the west.
We were lucky enough to interview Wim Hof to find out what his views are on the benefits of natural swimming. We were amazed by his wise words:
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. I recommend swimming in natural water every day.’
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.’
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:
- It has shown to improve and stimulate the immune system
- It triggers the release of endorphins which lead to a feeling of happiness and contentment
- It increases and stimulates circulation
- It is fantastic exercise
- It connects you with nature which is proven to reduce stress and anxiety