Cold Play

Becky Holman

Weve all seen photos of people who band together in the winter for a dip in frigid oceans and lakes. Whats up with that? Pictures of the famed Polar Bear Club show smiling folks frolicking in ice-cold waters. Well, it turns out that they may be onto something very healthful. According to the folks who do the Bottom Line newsletters, cold-water treatment was popularized by a German priest who, in the winter of 1849, successfully battled tuberculosis, which at the time was incurable, by swimming in the frigid Danube River several times a week. His book My Water Cure (1886) became an international best-seller.

New research suggests that cold water stabilizes blood pressure and enhances immunity. In a study of breast cancer patients, cold-water therapy significantly increased white blood cells, which are the bodys disease fighters.

You dont have to plunge yourself into a hole in the ice in Alaska to take advantage of cold-water therapy. Simply expose yourself to cold water at the end of your shower. Start with your hands and feet and gradually move your body under. Stay under for about 30 seconds to get the health benefits.