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Risks of Cold Exposure

When we immerse ourselves in water colder than 15°C, a strong stress reaction sets in. This starts a whole chain of biochemical and physiological changes. Blood pressure rises and the cold shock can cause gasping. If water is inhaled, there is a risk of drowning.
Because of the risks involved, anyone who considers starting with cold training should therefore consult a doctor. Slowly approaching cold training increases safety. It also brings the best results. After all, if the body is pushed too hard, it cannot get used to the new stimuli. That's why a mindful approach to the cold is important. It not only increases safety, but also brings the greatest health benefits.
Keep in mind that the body continues to cool down after you’ve left the water or the cold environment. This phenomenon is called afterdrop and can last between 20-40 minutes. That’s why you should get out of the water before you get too cold. It doesn’t take long to get the benefits of cold exposure but getting hypothermic carries considerable risks.

Here are a few general recommendations:

  • Don't go into the water alone, but in a group or with people who already have cold water swimming experience.

  • Go to a meet-up or special event organized by the Swiss Cold Training Association (STCA) to meet other cold training enthusiasts so you don’t have to go alone.

  • Make sure you can call for help if you need it. A cell phone should be on the shore.

  • Enter the water slowly and make sure your breathing is conscious and controlled.

  • Wait 1-2 minutes for the cold shock to pass and for you to breathe calmly before getting into deeper waters.

  • Set yourself a maximum time limit and do not change it even if others stay in the water longer. Cold training is not a competition.

  • If you do not feel well before your time limit, get out of the water.

  • Before starting your training, know how to get out of the water well and safely, even if your coordination, strength, and balance are impaired by the water.

  • Warm up slowly. Warming up too quickly can overwhelm your circulation and, amongst other conditions, result in uncontrolled shivering.

We keep a record of all the incidents that we are informed about and make sure to stay up to date with all risks associated to the cold and to the specific health conditions. If you have experienced an accident in the cold, please reach out and let us know. We collect and share this data so that cold training becomes safer overall.

Sign up and become a member to learn more about cold induced temporary amnesia and other risks.

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