Benefits of Cold Water Swimming

Being in Pembrokeshire, home to some of the best beaches in the UK, we are perhaps biased when it comes to waxing lyrical about why frolicking in the sea is good for you. But you don’t just have to take our word for it, there’s scientific evidence backing up the many health benefits of swimming in the ocean. Boosting both mental and physical health, studies show cold water swimming can help reduce blood pressure, relieve depression and anxiety and even help with chronic pain. And staying at Bluestone, you’re spoilt for choice if you’re planning on a sea swim during your stay even in the middle of winter.

There’s no more passionate advocate for cold-water swimming than Sian Richardson, founder of the Bluetits, who’s inspired thousands around the world to get involved in dipping. Living in St Davids, in north Pembrokeshire, Sian’s battle with depression led her to reluctantly take up running, eventually completing her first half marathon and inspiring her to tackle ultra-marathons. It was a logical leap to triathlons and ironman competitions until she became intrigued by the idea of swimming in freezing temperatures. What started out as a one-woman band dipping at her local beach at Porthsele in 2014 has become an amazing community built on kindness, courage and a love of the sea connecting 120,000 members worldwide.

* Image supplied by the Bluetits / Ella Richardson. 

Cold-water swimming activates temperature receptors under the skin that release hormones such as endorphins, adrenalin and cortisol. According to Sian, during the first few seconds of being in the water, there’s a definite high caused by your body’s response to the cold. For the first 90 seconds people feel pain, then your bodies adjust, she says.

“As we approach the water, we're often saying or thinking that we don’t want to go in,” she told us. “We tend to turn up and talk for 30 minutes about why we don't want to do it. Then someone will say they’ve driven 30 minutes to get here we’ll say, ‘Okay, stuff it, we’ll go in.’ We scream a lot, but we know that in two minutes’ time we’re going to start to feel a lot better because our body has gone through a process of survival and now our brain is full of adrenaline.”

The nearest beach to Bluestone – Coppet Hall – has an established Bluetit group and is perfect to try a cold water dip. We sat down with Sian and asked her about cold water swimming in Pembrokeshire and the Bluetits.



After two years training for the Ice Mile, I had gained considerable interest from people in Pembrokeshire. They would eagerly wait for me on the beach, asking about my motivations and questioning my sanity. Despite their remarks, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Some individuals started joining me, not specifically for the ice mile, but for the experience of cold-water swimming. One day, my husband suggested that I give myself a name. He pointed out how incredibly happy I was after my swims, contrasting with my initial grumbling and whining about the cold before leaving the house. When I returned, I would talk non-stop for half an hour, my skin glowing, and my enthusiasm overflowing. He jokingly said: “You should call yourself The Bluetits.” I burst into laughter and thought it was a wonderful name.



It all started quite informally. We called ourselves the Bluetits, but there was no official status or anything. As people visited during the summer, they heard about the group and expressed their interest in starting their own group to be a part of it. More and more people started joining because I enjoyed using social media and creating videos of my swimming adventures with my dog and friends, emphasising our identity as the Bluetits and the word started spreading rapidly.

Then came the lockdown, and I thought it would be the end of it because nobody could swim anymore, but surprisingly during the lockdown people were desperate for social interaction and although they couldn’t swim, they joined the groups that had been set up just to connect with others. By the end of the lockdown or during the phases when swimming became possible again, we had thousands of people eager to talk to someone real and to engage in exercise, we experienced an explosive growth during that time.

* Image supplied by the Bluetits / Ella Richardson. 



My advice is to join a group when you first start open water swimming so you can learn from the people you are swimming with and also find out how to get knowledge from apps to enable you to be better informed when you venture out into the wilds. Try it for two or three minutes on your first go and don’t fear the water.  

If you’re not a Bluetit you will become a Bluetit. It’s childish fun and people love it. You can have that wonderful Bluetit experience, even if it’s only once and you never do it again. It’s easy to feel self-conscious but you’re not too fat or too thin or too old. No one is looking, we’re all too busy trying to get dressed. It’s about those tiny steps which take you to a place where you feel, yes I am amazing, I’m capable of doing something extreme.

Just go online. I'm sure - certainly in Britain - there'll be a Bluetits club not far away from you.

* Image supplied by the Bluetits / Ella Richardson. 



You don't have to be a strong swimmer, you can wade up to your knees, strike out a few yards, or totally go for it depending on your ability and confidence. Just going up to your waist is okay. You don’t have to do anything. We live in a society where there are so many rules, but you can just paddle if you want to. There are no rules here.

With 100,000 members, trust me there isn't a body-type we haven't seen, and in the Bluetits there is absolutely no-one who's going to judge you. Just grab a coffee, come and sit on the sand, and if it looks like fun then run in and join us.



Particularly now it’s winter, one of the questions I keep getting asked is how long should you stay in for. It’s not about how long you are in the water for. It’s the whole package: there’s the anticipation before you turn up, then there’s the bit where you have to get into the water, your heart is beating your adrenalin is high. That first shock of cold is ‘wow’ but then your body starts to accept the water. Then you get out, you’re filled with endorphins and you feel alive. Then comes that great bit, warming up with a hot coffee. You go to bed with that wonderful warm glow. I’ve been doing it for nine years and I still get that feeling. Your body is still tingling four hours later. You feel that you’ve done something. People tell you you’re amazing.

We jump in the waves, we splash around but after five minutes, I’m done. I’m thinking about the cup of coffee and getting dressed. I always say to come out winning. Never push yourself so far that it absolutely scares you. I say to swear and scream – that outpouring of air makes you feel good. It’s okay to swear. Nobody is judging you here, which is nice in a world where we tend to be judged all the time.



  1. Don’t overthink it
  2. Find a group of people who will be there with you.
  3. Make sure you’ve had something to eat before you get in the water and take something for afterwards to look forward to, like cake and a lovely warm drink. The post-swim experience should be enjoyed too.
  4. Enjoy yourself. It makes you feel good about yourself. It’s the simplicity of it all, be nice and be kind.

The Bluetits have swimming groups all over the UK, find your flock on their website  Give it a go!


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