The dawn of a New Year often brings resolutions related to improving one’s health. So why not dive into a healthier 2012 by taking part in the 92nd annual Vancouver Polar Bear Swim?
If the thought of plunging into the icy waters of English Bay isn’t on your list of healthy activities, read on to discover some health benefits of regular cold water swimming that just might convince you to swim with the polar bears this year.
1. Swimming in cold water burns calories and increases your metabolism.
Cold water makes your body work twice as hard in an effort to keep you warm. This not only burns more calories, but it also causes your body to burn fat as its primary source of fuel and helps increase your metabolism in the long run.
2. Regular exposure to cold water strengthens the immune system
Keeping the body at the same temperature (with thermal regulators such as air conditioners, heaters and clothing) effectively disables the body’s natural system of thermal regulation. This can leave you vulnerable to getting sick from even minor changes in outside temperatures.
By exposing your system to sudden extreme temperatures, you can train your body to adapt to sudden changes in outside temperature so you don’t get sick after getting caught in the rain or a chilly windstorm.
3. Cold water helps boost skin circulation and improves the complexion
Cold temperatures increase blood flow and cause the heart to pump more blood to the organs. This helps the body flush out toxins and increases overall blood flow, which helps promote a clear, healthy complexion.
Tip: Increase circulation to the skin and get that desired healthy glow by switching between several hot and cold bursts of water while in the shower or when washing your face at the sink.
4. It gives you a natural “high”
Winter swimmers often talk about the “high” they get after taking a cold winter dip. This is caused by the rush of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers) that get released when the skin comes into contact with cold water.
The cold water also triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters that keep us feeling happy and help ward off depression.
5. It can improve your sex life…really!
Although taking a cold shower is usually thought to have exactly the opposite effect of increasing one’s sex drive, studies have found that daily cold baths or showers can increase testosterone levels for men and raise oestrogen levels in women. These hormones increase libido for both sexes and are also vital to fertility.
Cold water swimming is not without risk and should be practiced with caution. Most polar bear swims limit swimming time to 5 minutes to prevent the risk of hypothermia.
Cold water swimming is also not recommended for the following individuals:
- Pregnant women
- Heart disease patients or anyone prone to irregular heart beat
- Individuals with high blood pressure
Vancouver Polar Bear Swim
Perhaps more people would add the Polar Bear Swim to their New Year’s Resolutions list if they knew how much fun it can be to shock your system into better health.
As one cold water swimming enthusiast and polar bear swimmer explains: “It’s exhilarating, it’s refreshing, it’s a rebirth…It’s fun to do alone, but it’s more fun to do with other people. You can yell and scream, and where else can you yell and scream in today’s world?”
So how will you participate in this year’s Polar Bear Swim? Will you cheer alongside the crowd that gathers every year to watch the brave (and shivering) swimmers? Or will this be the year that you join the ranks of the polar bear and take that icy plunge into a healthier new year?
The 92nd Annual Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver takes place on January 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm in English Bay. Registration takes place at the English Bay Bathhouse between 12:30 and 2:30 pm. Registration is free.
References: Outdoor Swimming Society, MSNBC, The Next Challenge, Green Smoothies Blog