Athletes have been soaking themselves in ice baths for decades to fight delayed-onset muscle soreness or the tendency to start feeling sore and cramped the day after a major workout.
Research has shown bathing or swimming in cold water can have other health benefits:
- Boosts immunity — Immersing yourself in cold water triggers production of white blood cells as your body adjusts to changing conditions. Over time this helps your body’s immune system respond more quickly and effectively to threats, according to studies at the Thrombosis Research Institute in London and elsewhere.
- Burns calories — Exercising in colder weather has been shown to boost conversion of unhealthy subcutaneous adipose tissue to brown adipose tissue, or “brown fat.” This kind of fat specializes in producing heat and warming the body, and sheds calories almost entirely from the bad fats.
- Improves circulation — Your body reacts to cold water by sending blood and lymphatic hormones rushing to warm your core and its essential organs, flushing through your entire circulation system in a way it often doesn’t, especially during more sedentary activities. This helps train your body to do this more frequently.
Northern Arizona has lots of cool swimming spots that can be even cooler in the winter, so swim with caution. Water that is 50 degrees or colder is considered to be an “extreme” swimming condition that could lead to hypothermia or cold shock, so consider wearing a wetsuit and check local weather data or bring a water thermometer along.
This blog is one of many good online sources for safety tips: www.outdoorswimmer.com/blogs/6-tips-for-cold-water-swimming
These Northern Arizona locations have great opportunities for winter swimming adventures but are subject to weather-related closures and pandemic-related restrictions.
In August 2020 the Prescott National Forest lifted the prohibition on swimming in its four recreational lakes: Lynx, Mingus, Granite Basin and Horsethief Basin. Information: 928-443-8000 or www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/prescott/specialplaces
- Slide Rock State Park — This Oak Creek landmark has been known to attract a few hardy “polar bears.” Information: 928-282-2034 or www.azstateparks.com/slide-rock
The annual Prescott Valley Polar Bear Splash was held on January 9 ,2021 at Mountain Valley Splash Pool.
Polar Bear Splash in Prescott Valley | Photo: Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce