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Bella's swimming buddies Sophie Kijas (left) and Sally Gilmour
A shoal of fish in Cabbage Tree Bay
Bella Wakes-Miller (left) and Sally Gilmour take the plunge at Manly
If the mere thought of going for a swim during winter makes you shiver to the core, perhaps you should reconsider because there are many benefits to both your physical and mental health.
Here’s six reasons why you should take the plunge into our coastal waters this winter:
Whether you’re swimming for recreation or competition, swimming gives you a great work out. Your heart must pump faster in cold water which means you’ll burn more calories, your cardio fitness improves, and you develop endurance. Plus, there is no excuses because you can do it rain, hail or shine!
2. Boost your immune system
Cold water helps to boost your white blood cell count because the body is forced to react to changing conditions. Over time, your body becomes better at activating its defences.
3. Build muscle tone and strength
Swimming uses almost all muscles in your body! It’s a resistance exercise that builds muscle and strength for a whole-body workout. It helps you develop deep stabilising muscles in your core which are often missed. And it’s a perfect non-impact activity as your body becomes lighter in water which takes pressure off your joints.
4. Get a natural high
When exercising, your brain produces endorphins which are known as the “feel good” chemical that boost your mood. Swimming has been shown to alleviate stress and tension. it is also a meditative exercise, the repetition, movement and breathing can help you to relax.
Whilst swimming is an individual sport, you only need to head down to Manly at any time of day to see that it’s also very social! From toddlers to grandparents and everyone in between, swimming is for people of all ages.
6. It’s stunning
Thanks to microscopic algae being at a minimum in winter, the water clarity is top notch and you feel like you can see for miles. The marine life in Cabbage Tree Bay is so diverse, you are likely to see thousands of fish. The algae will bloom again in spring like flowers, so get in quick!
Are you convinced yet? We asked a local, Bella Wakes-Miller why she keeps swimming through winter.
“I have been swimming from Manly to Shelly for over 10 years and this winter the water has been so clear,” says Bella. “I see thousands of fish every swim as well as the giant cuttlefish and the occasional harmless shark.
“I used to swim with a larger group, but during Covid I was swimming with one friend at a time and it was an amazing time to connect socially and get some exercise in the sunshine – it always lifts my spirits. I have continued to swim in a smaller group in the middle of the day between my split shifts for work and it clears my head and keeps me going for the afternoon – I just love it.”
To help keep our residents and visitors swimming year-round, Manly’s south end is patrolled every day. If you are already a strong swimmer, the Manly to Shelley Beach swim is a must do and much-loved by locals. If you’re not ready to swim around the Point, get in at Fairy Bower and swim across to Shelley Beach while taking in the underwater world of Cabbage Tree Bay. Our rockpools are also open year-round and offer the seawater without the waves.
Remember to only swim at patrolled beaches or our rockpools, keep within your own capability, be able to read the water conditions and identify rip currents, warm up and never dive into cold water.