A deep dive into studies on the benefits of cold water swimming has found that it may help burn body fat and ward off diabetes.

Cold water swimming aficionados have long-championed the mental health boost provided by an icy plunge. Now researchers from the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) have found encouraging links with brown adipose tissue, a type of ‘good’ body fat, which burns rather than stores energy, and is activated by the cold.

Their review of 104 studies also found that exposure to cold water or air stimulates adipose tissue to produce the protein adiponectin, which protects against insulin resistance, diabetes and other diseases.

They cautioned that more work was needed to confirm their findings, suggesting that winter swimmers could be naturally healthier thanks to their active lifestyle and positive mindset.

“From this review, it is clear there is increasing scientific support that voluntary exposure to cold water may have some beneficial health effects,” said lead author James Mercer, from UiT.

Cold water swimming does come with some risks however, including cold water shock and hypothermia through prolonged exposure. Novices are advised to start slowly, keep the swim brief, and never swim alone.