A winter swimmer knows what it feels like to take stimulants and sedatives at the same time. That tingling on the skin and warmth radiating from the inside is an addictive sensation that makes a person return to the icy water again and again. Even as a child at the winter camps of our scout troop, I remember how we sprinted from the sauna to the frozen lake and ran around for a long time butt-naked before taking a dip in the ice hole. That wonderfully relaxed feeling of pleasure that also made all the senses more keen ushered us to a peaceful and deep sleep at the end of eventful camp days full of activities.
The sensations described above are supported by a study by Pirkko Huttunen, docent of thermobiology from the University of Oulu, on the physiological effects of ice swimming and the cold. According to Huttunen, ice swimming balances adrenaline levels so that high levels fall and low ones rise. That is why ice swimming is found to be both calming and refreshing – as needed. Ice swimming also increases the production of beta-endorphin, a pleasure hormone, making it an addictive hobby: the experience must be recreated again and again.
One addict is my co-worker Minna who has been indulging in ice swimming regularly for the last six years. “You can drown all your worries in the ice hole”, she says. The benefits of regular swimming include its health effects and your body relaxing already as you go in the ice hole, without your breath catching. After starting the hobby, the common cold has become a thing of the past. Taking a dip in the cold water is the most enjoyable when the body is already warm, such as after sweaty exercise. It is safe to go ice swimming with a friend, and it is also unmatched as a social event. To start the hobby, you only need a brave mind, neoprene gloves and slippers as well as a beanie!
You can get acquainted with the hobby in practice, for example, at the following ice swimming destinations in Häme.