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In the thick of winter, we take something powerful from the ocean. Unlike soothing swells on a balmy summer's day, there's an energy in bitter cold seas that rattles your bones, charges you. It wakes you from even the deepest winter sleeps. There's a real stripping back, a returning to oneself and a natural high that powers your day.

But putting all the positive vibes aside, there are actually some pretty sweet health benefits for urban adventurers who brave winter seas.

Boosts your immune system.

The sudden and drastic change in temperature when you hit the surf on a chilly winter's morning acts as a mild stressor for the body, which activates the immune system and can lead to increased white blood-cell counts.

Gets the blood pumping.

When your body is cold, it sends your blood to your organs, which works the heart like a pump. And the increased blood flow flushes your circulation system, helping to remove toxins. This is especially noticeable in your complexion as impurities are flushed from the skin.

Feel the burn.

Swimming and surfing in the cold requires extra effort, your body working twice as hard to keep you warm. The additional work burns more calories. And as fat is your body's primary energy source for this kind of activity, exercising in cold seas might just be ideal for maintaining your shape during winter (otherwise known as the comfort-food months).

Natural buzz.

Every urban adventurer knows the high you're left on after a freezing winter plunge; a feeling of invigoration so overwhelming it can become addictive. And what's the cause? Endorphins. Dubbed as the body's natural painkillers, the body uses endorphins to take the sting away from your skin after a freezing surf, leaving you with a natural high.

A cold plunge can also stimulate your parasympathetic system, triggering the release of serotonin and dopamine, both contributing to elevated moods and positive vibes.  

  

Breathe deeper.

Evidence shows that the swimmers and surfers who brave winter seas may be less susceptible to contracting diseases that target the respiratory system. Exposing the whole body to cold water produces oxidative stress, which helps winter swimmers and surfers develop improved antioxidative protection.

The aerobic exercise elevates heart rate and strengthens large muscles groups, which allows your lungs to work efficiently. And the more you swim or surf throughout winter, the more your heart rate will slow down and your blood pressure will improve. 


Sophie Hardcastle is a twenty-two-year-old author and artist based in Sydney. Sophie has a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Sydney College of the Arts. Her memoir Running like China was released in September 2015, and her debut novel, Breathing Under Water was released in July 2016. Hachette publishes both of Sophie’s books. In addition to her books, Sophie has written for various magazine publications, including ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar and Surfing World and has also written for theatre.

Sophie Hardcastle