Cold Water Swimming Beneficially Modulates Insulin Sensitivity in Middle-Aged Individuals

J Aging Phys Act. 2016 Oct;24(4):547-554. doi: 10.1123/japa.2015-0222. Epub 2016 Aug 24.


We determined whether cold water swimming for six consecutive months results in adaptive changes in body composition and insulin sensitivity. Thirty healthy subjects aged 50.2 ± 9.4 years were exposed to cold water at least twice a week. Body composition was determined and serum glucose and insulin served to calculate beta-cell function, insulin sensitivity, and resistance using HOMA2. Compared with control subjects, swimmers were overweight, and had greater percent body fat and beta cell function. Women had lower values of BMI, fat free mass, muscle mass, visceral adipose tissue level, and greater percent body fat than men. Increased insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin secretion and resistance from beginning to middle of swim season was observed in females and in lean subjects. Findings suggest that men and women differ in regard to body composition and response to repeated cold exposure. Cold water swimming may beneficially modulate insulin sensitivity in cold acclimated lean swimmers.

Keywords: HOMA2; body composition; cold exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Composition
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Electric Impedance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Swimming / physiology*


  • Blood Glucose