Living in Stockholm, it’s hard not to enjoy the water over summer! There are so many places to go swimming, cool off and enjoy the sunshine. Any occasion when you’re spending time in the sun or outside on a hot day there are precautions to remember, such as protecting your skin with suncream, protecting your eyes with sunglasses, and staying hydrated. As well as these general rules, when swimming and enjoying Stockholm’s islands and lakes, it’s important to pay specific attention to how you can look after yourself in and around the water.
Consider Your Body’s Reaction to Cold Water
While the water around Stockholm is welcoming, it isn’t always too warm. The same temperature feels much colder in water than in air because water has a higher density and transports heat away from the body much more efficiently. Swimming in cold water is recognised as having effects which include boosting mood and helping the body respond to stress.
But the body can react strongly to the sudden change in temperature – you may have noticed that you gasp when you enter cold water, and breathe quickly initially. This is part of the body’s fight or flight response, as it responds to the stress caused by the cold temperature. As part of this response, your heart rate increases, and sugar and fat are released into the bloodstream so your body can generate more energy. Your blood is also redirected away from your skin to your muscles and organs to keep as much heat as possible in the core.
These changes can affect how you and your body feel while in the water and after. You might not have as much sensation in your hands and feet so be careful getting in and out of the water. Your body will be using up a lot of energy generating the fight or flight response and keeping you warm and so you may feel tired after swimming in cold water. It is important that you listen to your body and eat to replenish the energy used up. The idea that you shouldn’t eat before swimming is a myth so you can eat and get some energy before and after swimming!
Drink Enough Water
If you’re staying active and/or the water isn’t that cold, you may still get quite warm from swimming and being active in the water. Your body still sweats when underwater if it’s working hard, but without the usual signs of feeling sweaty or thirsty. Because of this, it’s important that you remember to drink enough when swimming to make up for water lost by sweating. One sign to drink more is if you’re breathing heavily, which is caused by the body working at a high intensity. If you’re working hard enough to increase your breathing it’s likely you’re also working hard enough to work up a sweat.
While some people believe it isn’t necessary to wear suncream when swimming because water offers protection, you can get sunburnt in the water! Sunburn is caused by UV-B ultraviolet rays, which are partially absorbed by water, but this won’t be sufficient to prevent damage when swimming near the surface. In addition to this, the cooling feeling of the water will likely make you less aware of the heat of the sun reaching your skin and you may stay out in the sun for longer than you would out of the water.
Make sure your suncream is waterproof, and make sure you apply it with plenty of time to absorb into your skin before you go swimming rather than risk it washing off as soon as you enter the water.
Protect Your Eyes
As well as protecting your skin, your eyes are at risk of damage from the sun, which is increased when spending time around water as the sun’s rays are reflected off the water as well as coming directly from the sun. It’s best to wear a hat or sunglasses with UV absorption when out in the sun, and don’t underestimate the light that can be reflected from water!
So enjoy the beaches and lakes Stockholm has to offer, and remember to bring suncream, sunglasses, food and water, and your towel so you can relax and know you have everything you need to enjoy the sun and the water safely.