Today marks one month to go until this year’s Great East Swim takes place at Alton Water on 19 June, just outside Ipswich. Find out more and register here.

So our blog this week is about all the benefits of open water swimming (or wild swimming as it’s sometimes known) which has received a lot of media attention in recent years.

You probably already know that pool swimming is extremely beneficial for both our physical and mental health because it truly works your entire body, head to toe. Swimming increases your heart rate without stressing your body, tones muscles, builds strength, builds endurance and makes you feel, well frankly, pretty awesome!

But you may not be aware of the additional health benefits that open cold water/outdoor swimming brings.

The physical benefits include:

Better sleep
Open water swim training can result in a natural increase in the levels of a certain hormone called prolactin in the body which may help to improve the quality of your sleep.

Increased happiness
Other hormones that stimulate the thyroid have been shown to be increased by more than 50 per cent after swimming. This has all kinds of benefits on regulating weight, body temperature, muscle strength but also can improve your mood, making you both healthier and happier.

Boosted immune system
Open water swim training in colder water can reduce the potential over-production of certain hormones that can contribute to impaired immunity, in effect making your more body more robust and resistant to infection.

Preventing and managing long-term health conditions
Cold water and open water swim training can make other systems of your body more efficient and more effective, improving your body’s defensive response to damage and therefore potentially reducing your risk of cancer, neurological disorders and chronic respiratory disease. It and can also help to improve the management of asthma and Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Less muscle soreness – improves recovery
  • Reduces body pain and inflammation
  • Improve circulation
  • Potential weight loss (though not guaranteed) through improved metabolism
  • ‘Cold adaptation’ – through repeated cold swimming it is possible to bring down blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce fat disposition, inhibit blood clotting and increase libido.
  • Good for the skin and hair

And the cold water mental health benefits include:

  • Manage anxiety, stress and depression
  • Increase alertness, clarity and energy levels
  • Release endorphins (happy hormones)
  • Feelings of euphoria and achievement and a sense of will power
  • A sense of community – meet others who are swimming to have a lovely time
  • Reconnecting with nature

Suffolk County Council’s Most Active County programme have been running Great East Swim Outreach programmes for a number of years – which have significantly improved the health and wellbeing of the participants, and in many cases have literally changed lives. Here’s just some of their comments but links to their full stories are below.

Felicity says “Everything in my life changed for the better. I suddenly became that person I was before I’d lost my husband but even better. I was so much more positive, my body was better which made me feel good. I looked forward to going every night and I loved it.

Claire said “One of the things you’re not aware of when you take part in the swims is the resilience it gives you because you feel that if you can achieve that, then you can achieve anything.”

Cat said “ Although it was great feeling physically healthier, for me, the mental health benefits and how it made me feel were so much better. I felt more confident and had more energy.”

This Girl Can Ambassador Sue also said about outdoor swimming
I am nearly 43 and I totally believe that if you work hard and never give up on your goals you can achieve anything. It’s so important to me to be a good role model for my little girl. For me, physical activity has boosted my self-esteem, self confidence and self-belief. It has allowed me to take control and be able to cope with uncertainty better by clearing my head and putting things into perspective. It has allowed me the ability to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.


Getting started – joining a group 

Local This Girl Can Ambassador, Natasha Sones found a love for wild swimming during the lockdown and has since launched a supportive community of beginners at Shingle Street in Suffolk. This is in addition to the group that was set up shortly before by our This Girl Can Ambassador Angela in Deben.

Click the links below to join the Facebook groups where you can meet like minded women, find out more about wild swimming and get involved.

The Shingle Street Bluetits

The Deben Bluetit Dippers

Sue Tetley

Sue Tetley

This Girl Can Ambassador Sue Tetley shares her experience.

Felicity Eden


Read Felicity’s story from her experience on the 2016 MAC outreach programme.

Cat and Claire

Cat and Claire

Read Cat & Claire’s story from the 2018 MAC Outreach programme.


The Great East Swim

Registration’s still open for this year’s Great East Swim