Looking for a new experience in Sweden? Winter swimming can be a thrilling way to challenge yourself and experience nature in a whole different way.
Health benefits of winter swimming
The health benefits of winter swimming have been scientifically proven. Swimming in cold water increases feel-good hormones, reduces stress and improves sleep (unless you have heart or blood circulation problems, which means swimming in ice-cold water should be avoided).
Cold water causes constriction of the blood vessels, which allows your body to retain heat, and blood pressure increases to avoid cooling down. In the process to protect the body, hormones like endorphins are released and act as pain relief (as well as an antidepressant) for a few hours. This is one reason why winter bathers are known to lead more active lives and are generally happier and more fulfilled than other people. Another reason could be the great feeling of adventure winter swimming delivers!
Where to swim in Stockholm
In Stockholm, one of the best places to swim in winter is Hellasgården, an outdoor recreation center in Nacka nature reserve. Located just 25 minutes from the city, Hellasgården also has slopes for downhill skiers and paths for cross country skiers. And for swimming, there’s a hole cut in the ice and sauna facilities for warming up afterwards. In summer, you can rent kayaks and SUP boards.
The onsite café serves a range of drinks and snacks and the slightly more upscale restaurant boasts an impressive menu (the soup is always delicious). Otherwise, you can bring your own sausages or burgers to cook on the grill that is fired up on weekends.
On Saturday 18 January 2020, Hellasgården will host the second annual Stockholm Winter Swim with 200 swimmers competing in the icy water.
Scandinavian Winter Swimming Championship
There are plenty of other winter swimming events that promote winter swimming as a healthy sport and foster international friendship like the Open Scandinavian Championship in Winter Swimming.
The Winter Swimming Competition which is part of the World Cup, is being held on Saturday 15 February 2020 in Skellefteå, Sweden. Every year, the competition attracts some 400 winter swimmers from different countries. In 2020, individual competitions will be held in 25 m breaststroke and butterfly, 50 m breaststroke and freestyle and 100 m freestyle. There will also be relay races 4 x 25 m breaststroke. The Open Scandinavian Championship is arranged by the aptly named Dark & Cold association (Föreningen för Mörkrets and Kylans Glada Vänner).
The IWSA World Cup Series is the next step that gives ordinary swimmers a chance to participate in a series of international events.
And If you’re keen to travel further afield, check the events under International Winter Swimming Association
If you’re new to swimming, we recommend taking a few classes in a warmer environment to get acquainted with the water and build confidence before you take the plunge into icy water. And if you do go winter swimming, remember to wear a hat – you’ll retain up to 50% of your body heat.