The Brutal Bear.
The Polar Plunge.
Even though it may seem crazy to some, there are others who swear by the benefits it provides…that being the act of swimming in freezing cold water. What are these benefits, you ask? Well, here are just a few (as with any new physical endeavor, always consult with your physician to ensure it’s safe for you to participate):
Immune Booster – Scientists from the Czech Republic immersed individuals in cold water for one hour, three times a week…and monitored their physiology. What they discovered was that their test subjects displayed an increase in their white blood cells, as well as a variety of other factors relating to the immune system. They attributed these changes to the cold water acting as a mild stressor which activated the immune system of the test subjects.
Endorphins – Not unlike a “runner’s high”, winter swimmers swear by the “high” provided by frolicking in cold water. This “high” is caused by the release of endorphins in the body. The cold water also stimulates the body’s parasympathetic system, which is responsible for both rest and repair – and can also trigger the release of other chemicals in the body, such as dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin are both neurotransmitters that are vital in helping us feel happy (low levels of these two chemicals are often linked with depression).
Circulation – When you’re hot, blood comes to the surface. When you’re cold, it’s sent to your organs. Both of these extremes work the heart like a pump (which is why you should always check with your physician prior to starting any new exercise routine) and helps improve circulation.
Burn Calories – As is common knowledge, exercise burns calories. And, while swimming is a phenomenal exercise to participate in to begin with, swimming in cold water burns even more calories. This is because your body has to work even harder in an effort to keep warm – this, in turn, causes your body to burn more calories and, potentially, increase metabolism.
Now, we know that taking a “polar plunge” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, it is quite the invigorating activity and, as such, is loved by a great many. If it’s something you’re considering trying out (again, with your physician’s permission), remember to have a sure fire way to warm up afterwards – our preference would be in a hot tub, of course!