Icy plunge: Scandinavian winter swimming
Plunging into water at below zero degrees sounds like a less than pleasant experience and one might wonder who in their right mind would voluntarily do so? The answer is Scandinavians… Scandinavians would. But before you write this off as a weird viking-heritage-craze, hear us out. As it turns out winter swimming is good for your psychical and mental health.
Winter swimming in the sea is in large a Nordic phenomenon. It has been for years. In Denmark for instance, the winter swimming-culture saw the light of day at the beginning of the 20th century, when several public bath houses was established. Since then, winter swimming has been a daily or weekly activity for a lot of people. Some just go for a quick dip into the sea and then run for the sauna, others, the pure Vikings, go for an actual swim.
Did you know? The first public winter swimming bath house to open in Denmark was Helgoland on Amager. It still exists today.
In recent years, winter swimming has developed into a “hot” trend, even though it’s ice cold … Today, Denmark has 115 official registered winter swimming clubs and some 31.000 members. Many clubs have a waiting list and you have to sign up in order to become a member. Danes love the cold nordic water.
The increasing popularity of winter swimming is probably a result of a growing interest in our personal health, mental as well as psychical, and winter swimming is said to be very healthy. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits of winter swimming.
Swimming or, for some, dipping in the sea, gives you a feeling of being one with nature. You feel the water against your skin and you can smell the salty water. It’s just you and the elements and you become one with nature. It’s meditative. You let in the nature around you and become present in the moment. No thoughts in your head, just a sense peace and quiet as you feel the blood flowing through your veins.
Physically a lot of healthy things happen in your body during a cold dip in the sea. The cold causes the blood vessels to contract, which gives the body a shock and triggers the release of endorphins and adrenalin in the brain. You get a kick. The endorphins, also called the happiness hormone, give you a very happy and relaxed feeling in your whole body after the dip (or the swimm) and chase stress and negative thoughts on the run. It produces a feeling of well-being and boosts your mood. After the cold shock, your body opens up again, warms you up and fill you up with fresh energy.
Maybe this is why advocates of winter swimming say that it will make you less stress-prone, improve your sex life, stregthen your immune system, slow down the aging process and give you better skin and hair.
Tempted to try, but also a little scared? It takes a little courage to overcome the fear of the fresh cold water and the first time might be something you just want to get over with, but once you’ve gotten familiar with the thought, you’ll likely get somewhat addicted to plunging into the icy cold Nordic water. We think you should give it a try.
Ready to dive in? Here’s a few of the winter swimming bath houses in Denmark, that will provide you with a great experience. Most of them require a membership but have days where they are open for non-members, who wish to try an icy plunge (The home pages are in Danish, but information can be found via Google maps).
For a full list of bath houses in Denmark follow this link: www.vinterbader.com/Liste_foreninger.pdf.
Throw a towel and your bathing clothes in a bag and get on with it. Now you know where to go.
Let us know what you think: Feel free to comment on this blog post or upload pictures of your favorite winter swimming spot.
If you want to read more about Scandinavian life and culture go check out some more of our blog posts right here – blog.eniito.com.