January 1st was the day of the annual Polar Bear Plunge! What is this event? Well, it does not have anything to do with bears. It is when you take a plunge into icy cold water on New Year’s Day to celebrate a fresh start! Many people also do the Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for charity. Depending on where you live, it can be the ocean, a lake, the river, or even a cold pool. Doing this in the New England cold is not a feat for the faint hearted. This event takes place all over the world – in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, England, South Korea, and Russia.
People have been doing dips in icy cold water for generations. There are perceived health benefits from this daring act. A quick dip in an icy lake after a hot steam bath or once in a while can actually improve circulation, make you feel more energetic and brisk even during those cold winter months, and can alleviate pains from rheumatism, fibromyalgia, and respiratory issues like asthma. For most people, a dive into cold water will cause “a surge of epinephrine,” also known as adrenaline, and “physiological aspects are going to be similar to exercise.” The water triggers a flight or fight reaction, causing that invigorating feeling. People report feelings of energy, euphoria, and mental clarity that can last for up to 3 days.
With some advance planning, you can prep your body to tolerate the cold water by taking cold baths or swimming in a cold-water pool. “The body has some capacity to acclimate [to heat and cold], Dr. Rittenberger, a medical expert, says. “There’s some evidence suggesting that people repeatedly exposing themselves (to cold water) handle it better and acclimate to it.”
However, for some people who have health conditions, doctors warn that a polar bear plunge is not in their best interest. Sudden immersion in cold water can trigger a heart attack, stroke, or hyperventilation, and even good swimmers can drown as muscles become paralyzed from the frigid water.
To those brave souls who complete the icy dip, Private Home Health Care solutes you!