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What Happens To Your Body At A ‘Polar Bear Plunge’?

Ever wonder what happens to someone’s body when they participate in a “Polar Bear Plunge” on a frigid New Year’s Day?

Neither did I. After all, those plunges are usually just a 15-second blip on the news, a “can you believe how crazy they are?” kicker segment on a slow day. But someone at MSNBC wondered, and she asked an expert on hypothermia and cold-water survival, who told her a) contrary to the folks in northern Europe who tout the benefits of an icy plunge after a sauna, there are no proven benefits to it; b) sudden “plunging” carries the risk of inability to hold your breath when you hit the cold water; c) your blood pressure rises, your motor coordination becomes impaired from the blood rush, and, if you’re insane enough to stay in there for over a half hour, it’s hypothermia time. What fun!

In reality, though, most plunges happen with no casualties. The main risk is for people who have heart disease. Most if not all other participants escape unscathed. Still, jumping into ice-cold water in January in nothing but a bathing suit and maybe a t-shirt is something I’d leave to others. There have to be ways to raise money for charity that don’t involve something called “cold shock response.”

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