A person going ice swimming in an ice hole made outside. Snowy trees and buildings in the background.

The wonders of ice swimming

While Finns love relaxing in their hot saunas, many of them also enjoy the other extreme. That is, taking a regular dip in ice cold natural waters, such as lakes and rivers. But Finns are not the only ones – cold water immersion has become an international wellness trend. 

In Finland, ice swimming’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. Often used as a synonym for winter swimming, ice swimming requires breaking the ice and carving a hole for people to swim in. These ice holes can be found all over Finland in winter. It is estimated that there are now over 150,000 ice swimmers in the country. Many of the multiple Finnish ice swimming clubs have been facing a surge in new member applications, even leading to long waiting lists in some places.

Swimming in under four degree water certainly has its own thrill. For many, it offers an exciting opportunity to challenge themselves. Still, the various mental and physical health benefits from cold exposure often stand out the most when looking for reasons behind ice swimming’s popularity. According to people’s experiences and studies, ice swimming can, for example:

  • give you an endorphin and mood boost
  • reduce stress 
  • ease sleep problems
  • activate brown fat, burning calories and improving sugar metabolism
  • enhance blood circulation and immune system
  • decrease blood pressure
  • relieve muscle and joint pain as well as the symptoms of asthma
  • speed up muscle recovery.

Sources: Duodecim; MTV; Spa Executive; Suomen Latu – The Outdoor Association of Finland; Yle; International Journal of Circumpolar Health (Winter swimming improves general well-being by Pirkko Huttunen, Leena Kokko, & Virpi Ylijukuri, 2004)