Cold Plunging Began as Ice Swimming

Man climbing into icy water

Have you heard of Ice swimming? Crazy I know, if you’re anything like me you probably asked yourself, “What would motivate someone to go take a dive in frigged waters in the middle of Winter?” Turns out, it’s one of the oldest sports out there beginning as far back as the first century in the UK and Russia.

Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church would actually undergo submersion in frozen waters as a part of religious celebrations. Nowadays most who practice ice swimming do it for more secular reasons. It’s been reported that benefits of ice swimming include reduced stress and fatigue, better memory function, improved blood circulation, better mood and feeling more energetic.   

There are other reported long-term benefits like training your body to warm itself in extreme conditions and better endorphin production in the brain. Some studies show that ice swimming could be useful as a potential treatment for depression. Ice swimming isn’t without it’s risks though, and it requires a certain level of fitness to be done properly.

If you have a heart condition or respiratory illness it’s inadvisable for you to try this sport, as the risks involved could be fatal. Those may include hypothermia, cardiac arrest, hyperventilation, cold incapacitation, and after-drop which is basically what happens when the cold blood in your limbs recirculates and reaches your core causing a sudden drop in internal body temperature. Considering the risks, if you’re still interested in ice swimming then here are the precautions you should take before attempting it for yourself.

Rule one, never go alone. Every reference to this practice stressed the importance of a reliable partner in case anything goes wrong. Rule two, have warm gear and a warm drink ready it’s the best way to offset the after-drop. Also have a sauna lined up to reheat your body, and of course your trusty sunscreen, Kovr, if you’ll be outdoors.

Traditionally the only clothes worn during ice swimming were a wool hat and ice shoes. That means exposed skin. What does that matter, you may be saying to yourself. Well as it turns out. UV rays are dangerous all year round, even though this wasn’t probably on their radar back in those times.

You’re incredibly exposed while making your way out of the water and into shelter. There’s health risks that come with the sport of ice diving, the last thing you need is to add to the hazards by neglecting a protective layer of sunscreen on your skin. Sunburn is serious in those conditions, although not as serious as frostbite in the moment.

An article published by states, “According to a snow sports participation study by Crescent Ski Council, 59.9 percent of skiers are men, with 60.9 percent under the age of 34.5. Due to increased UV exposure from reflection off snow, extended hours of UV exposure, and simply being in a demographic at higher risk for sunburns, winter sports participants are an important target group for sun safety education.”

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