Scientific studies which suggest cold water swimming can help delay the onset of dementia have been welcomed by Liverpool Watersports Centre.
Research by Professor Giovanna Mallucci, director of the UK’s Dementia Research Centre at Cambridge University, compared cold water swimmers with people doing Tai Chi.
And the initial results look promising, as it is believed cold water helps the body produce a vital protein.
In a 2015 study on mice, it showed the same protein offered protection against the onset of dementia.
It’s thought 850,000 people are living with dementia in the UK, and one in 14 people over 65 have the disease.
Brendan Roche, a supervisor at Liverpool Watersports Centre, backed the research and highlighted the benefits of participation in the sport, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
A lot of people are seeing the benefits of open water swimming.
“It builds up the body’s immune system and especially when we think about Covid-19, we’ll be able to defend against the virus much better,” Roche told Merseysportlive.
Roche was keen to highlight the age range of swimmers that visit the centre and insisted there are only positives that can result from regular participation.
“In regards to the studies into dementia, we have a complete range of ages that come and do open water swimming with us.
“It doesn’t appear to do them any harm. It keeps them fit and active.”
Alongside the health benefits, the 62-year-old was keen to highlight the social cohesion that attracts a lot of members to the centre.
“People who have never met each other before are now having little social groups.
“As far as dementia is concerned, contact with other people is so so important.
“You can be on your own or can be down here as a group in something we call a pod. Swimming with friends in twos, threes or fours, but again keeping socially distanced.
“We have over 40 people in some groups and they’ve all gone home very happy.”
Roche has been working at the centre for over ten years, but has been visiting for much longer.
He works primarily in the health and safety department at the Queen’s dock site.
He underlined the precautions that swimmers, both new and old, must take.
“There is a risk of cold water shock.
“If it’s their first time, we always advise them to put a wetsuit on and tell them to wear something called a toe float. This helps us to identify the newer swimmers in the dock.”
The water temperature at this time of the year can drop to a chilly 11 degrees compared to a mild 22 degrees in the summer.
The more experienced members know what to expect when entering the water, and Roche admits a small minority thrive in the crisp temperatures.
“We have people who get a real buzz of being really cold.
“They could be classed as extreme swimmers. They’ll get in in swim shorts or a bikini anytime of the year.
“It’s usually around about 10% in skins and 90% in wetsuits.”
It is expected that by 2025 there will be over one million people living with dementia in the UK.