Polar Bear Dips, or Polar (Bear Plunges as they’re also known), tend to take place on New Year’s Day. It involves a large group of mostly unclad individuals who willfully run into a freezing cold body of water outside (sometimes for charity).
While this sounds completely insane to some, to others it is a thrill and a rush. However, if you’re considering taking part in one this year, there are seven things you should know about the chilly tradition…
1. Pre-Screening is Recommended
As you may have guessed, jumping into frigid water in the winter can be a shock to your system—your heart, to be more precise. TIME magazine warns that if your family has a history of strokes or cardiac problems, you should probably get the all-clear from a doctor before diving in, so to speak.
The source notes the initial reaction to cold water is gasping for air, which puts more strain on the heart. However, if you have less than perfect heart health, you could experience discomfort that is alarming. “The blood vessels in the heart can constrict, leading to chest pains like angina or a heart attack,” adds the source.