Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is swimming in cold water okay for my heart?

Q. I spend part of every summer on the coast of Maine. One of the things I love to do there is swim in the ocean for 20 or 30 minutes. The water is cold (55 F) but I don't mind. I'm almost 80. I had my mitral valve repaired five years ago, and my heart rate is sometimes irregular. Are my cold-water swims okay for my heart?

A. Swimming is an excellent exercise for the heart, arteries, lungs, and muscles. If you enjoy swimming in cold water and have been doing it for some time with no ill effects, it's probably fine for you. But your question worries me for a couple of reasons.

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