To plunge or not to plunge. That is the question for some as New Year’s Day approaches – and one best posed to a physician. Because, before taking the polar bear plunge into freezing cold water, you should first make sure your heart can handle it.
For others, the question is moot. They wouldn’t take the plunge, period.
Whether the plunge is a New Year’s Day tradition or just plain crazy depends on how you look at it. But, one thing’s for certain, the polar bear plunge is a worldwide phenomenon – and not just for New Year’s.
Wikipedia estimates that 30,000 people brave the Netherland’s New Year’s plunge, known as “Nieuwjaarsduik.” And it happens in Canada and Russia, too. In 2014, Australian researchers in Antarctica even marked the June 22 solstice (winter for them) with a dip in an ice-filled pool.
Why? Some say there are health benefits, such as stress relief, increased energy and rejuvenation. But there can be dangers, too, particularly for people with a family history of stroke, aneurysm, blood pressure problems or hypertension. The cold water causes blood vessels to constrict.
But, they also do it for a good cause. In the U.S., polar bear plunges across the country raise money or collect goods to help others.
Here are a few groups and events that take on the cold for a charitable cause:
If you do plan to plunge, be sure to seek your doctor’s advice first.