A small team of health advocates at ENGIE North Tyneside support colleagues to engage with health and wellbeing campaigns and initiatives throughout the year. We sat down with them to talk about their engagement throughout the last year.

“We came to learn that a number of our colleagues had taken to going for a swim or a dip in the North Sea and decided that as part of our award submission for the Better Health @ Work Award to develop a case study on the benefits of open water swimming.

In the study we provided employees with information on the health benefits of open water swimming or dipping and connecting to the natural environment, links to research that had been carried out by a number of universities and links to local open water swimming groups.

Whether it is a swim, a dip, a splash, jumping the waves or getting in the sea up to your ankles or knees we wanted our colleagues to understand that the benefits of the cold water are beginning to be recognised.

Reconnecting to the natural environment can trigger positive emotions and the cold-water acclimatisation has medical benefits too:

  • Visiting nature at least once/week was associated with better health.
  • Nature connectedness was positively related to eudaimonic wellbeing.
  • Nature connectedness was positively associated with pro-environmental behaviours.
  • Nature documentaries were positively associated with pro-environmental behaviour.
  • Connectedness moderated relationships between nature contact and outcome variables.
  • Those who exercise you don’t need to get into an ice bath or apply and ice pack, you can have the double whammy of walking into the North Sea and get the environmental location benefits as well as the ice treatment for aching legs.
  • Research has shown patients with medical supervision have stopped taking their medication for depression after taking part in regular cold-water swimming sessions.
  • Woman report the symptoms of the menopause can be alleviated.

Here’s what some of colleagues have said:

“I love the sea and feel drawn to it like nothing else.  A friend posts photo’s of herself looking rosy cheeked and happy after her dips so decided not was the time I would give it ago.

The first time was just to my knee’s walking along Tynemouth Longsands and that was a giggle.  The next time was the full experience and it was amazing.  I squealed and laughed and squealed some more.  The water was breathtakingly cold but I got used to it pretty quickly because I was jumping waves and generally feeling alive.

That’s what I love about it, it makes me feel alive.  After months in lockdown and all the uncertainty going forward I realised it was what I needed.  After my first real immersion I had so much energy I walked back home from Tynemouth to North Shields and still had energy to spare.  I felt happy and smiled at everyone, that cold water high stayed with me for days.

Since then I’ve gone most weekends and have met new people who also love the sea.  I look forward to each and everytime.”

“I originally went swimming in Cullercoats Bay with my son because he said he would make me avocado and poached egg on toast!! I got down there and it took about five minutes for me to pluck up the courage to do it. I then decided to just go for it and dived in, I was shaking for about ten minutes with my teeth chattering. After that it stopped and I spent twenty minutes swimming with the water eventually feeling warm believe it or not.

I have done it a few more times but the best one was in the summer when I went swimming and watched the sun come up, it was fantastic. It was a real achievement for me, being an old woman and all that. During the first lockdown it was hard and it was good to think I did something I would never of done in normal times.”

“I go swimming at Tynemouth Beach(Long sands) on Saturday afternoon, in all weathers.

I have been suffering from anxiety and a good friend of mine suggested I take a dip in the sea, as potentially it has good health benefits.

My first thoughts were, are they crazy?

Well I took the plunge and can honestly say it’s one of the most invigorating experiences I have ever had. I come out of the sea feeling rejuvenated, then the adrenalin buzz kicks in and I can achieve anything.

My next venture is to do the Windermere challenge………. Will keep you posted.”

We continue to share best practices with Maureen from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who supports us through the Better Health at Work programme. For information on joining the programme, contact Maureen Turner, Health Improvement Practitioner Specialist, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust on 0191 270 4514 or visit www.betterhealthatworkne.org

Please follow water safety guidelines before taking part in open water swimming and obtain professional advice around swimming in icy conditions should you have any medical conditions.

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