Do you know what a polar bear plunge is?
If you thought about it, you could guess: it's when you jump into freezing cold water for the hell of it. The question is, though, whether or not it's good for you!
Vinny Guadagnino has done the Coney Island Polar Bear Club's 110th New Year's Day Swim twice now. Here's what he says:
"You get a rush when you're there because there are so many people doing it. It's definitely like a shot of adrenaline… It doesn't affect you that much — you just have to go in, and do it, and jump back out… Afterward, as soon as I get out, I have a towel waiting for me, and I dry off quickly. That's it — and then, I just chill."
Doctors are hesitant, because there's no evidence on the dips being good for you — plus, the sudden drop in temperature can be dangerous for people with underlying health issues.
Here's what one doctor says:
"The biggest problem I see with these clubs is that people participate in them without having made sure from a health perspective that it's clear sailing."
He cites people with family history of stroke, aneurysm, blood pressure problems, hypertension, or sudden cardiac death should be extra cautious and should probably be evaluated by a doctor before jumping in near-freezing water.
"Blood vessels on the outer part of your body constrict to try to retain heat, and that constriction (shifts) your blood demand more to your inner organs, trying to keep them warm."
People who are at a high risk for heart disease, the blood vessels in the heart can constrict, leading to chest pains like angina or a heart attack.
Here's another doctor:
"Your muscles get cold and are instantly paralyzed by the hyperventilation, and you can become very weak. You hear of people drowning in a minute or two, even when they're just a few feet from safety."
Another researcher tackles the idea of it making you feel invigorated:
"People talk about being full of energy, and they perceive that this has done them good. but that's because the body is responding to a stress with a 'fight-or-flight' response and preparing to get you out of that environment, and that may well give you a feeling of quasi-euphoria."
The key to avoiding this is training, and yet most people who take part are just in it for the experience, not the long haul!
Also: don't jump in, walk in. Then, walk out and take a slow 10-15 minute bath. No longer, or you might faint!
Or, just don't do polar bear plunges at all. Doesn't seem worth it to us!
[Image via AP Images.]