A Bucket of Ice Water a Day Keeps the Doctor Away in Siberian Kindergartens

A Bucket of Ice Water a Day Keeps the Doctor Away in Siberian Kindergartens 1

January 13th, 2017

By Carolanne Wright

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

In a culture that goes to the extreme in order to avoid any form of physical or psychological discomfort, the idea of “snow bathing” may seem like absolute insanity. But for some kindergartens in Siberia, Russia, it’s a daily practice. Dressed only in their underwear, the children troop outside in weather as low as -30ºC to rub snow onto their skin and dump icy buckets of water over their heads.

As it turns out, this seemingly unusual ritual is nothing new. Cold water therapy has a long history of use in Zen monasteries, remote Buddhist enclaves throughout the Himalayas, Kundalini Yoga practitioners, Japanese Shinto Monks, Native Americans and the ancient Greeks. Exposing yourself to icy water not only helps boost the immune system, slim the body and improve cardiovascular health, it’s also considered a spiritual practice across many traditions.

Encouraging Health, Siberian Style

“What six months of these water exercises showed was an immediately stronger resistance to illnesses. Our kids were now able to go to the kindergarten and even if someone had infection, they were no longer catching it.” ~ Olesya Osintseva, kindergarten director in Barnaul, southern Siberia

Eighteen years ago, a group of concerned teachers and doctors came together to discuss their children’s health. “’They were catching influenzas, and there were moments when half of the children attending the kindergarten were unwell,” says Osintseva.“It was obvious that something needed to be done to make them grow stronger and be more resilient against viruses.” Subsequently, the idea of snow bathing was born.

The group tested themselves and their own children first by splashing their feet with icy water, then progressing to pouring the cold water over their heads while outside. When it was made clear that the children and adults were healthier after six months of the practice, they started telling other parents about the experience. Some were interested in having their children shower themselves with cold water in the middle of winter — others, not so much. So the kindergarten began a separate “wet group” where the children start with cold water therapy from the age of two. “I am completely sure,” enthuses Osintseva. “These children are noticeably healthier.”

Only after medical testing and three years of slow training are the students allowed outside in freezing weather for snow bathing — even then, it’s only for a few minutes at a time. The treatment is suspended if high winds are present. Moreover, the children are not forced to participate. If the parents object, the student remains in the “dry group.”

Before going out into the snow, the children do their morning exercises — running, jumping and stretching. After the cold water treatment, they have a hot sauna. Then it’s back into the freezing cold for another round. Finally, everyone returns indoors, changes into their clothing and has breakfast with hot tea. This all happens first thing, around 7:30 in the morning.

Osintseva notes:

“Our doctor confirms that children in groups that practice dousing get through the flu season a lot more easily, and generally the statistics show there are 95% of healthy children in the ‘wet’ group, compared to 75% among the others.”

Kids show no fear when playing in the snow in freezing conditions

Cold water therapy is practiced in some Russian and Ukrainian schools when temperatures drop below freezing. But a hot sauna comes first. Afterwards the kids drink hot herbal tea. The practice is believed to boost health, immunity and stamina.

DIY Cold Water Therapy at Home

When it comes down to it, you don’t need to live in Siberia (or any other northern climate) to reap the benefits of cold water therapy. A shower or bathtub are both reasonable alternatives to running around outside in your underwear during subzero temperatures.

Write Jordan and Kyla Miller in Ten Health Benefits of Cold Showers:

“An experiment in Prague studied the effect of cold water immersions on athletic young men. They immersed themselves in water at 14 °C (57 °F), three times a week for six weeks. Among many changes, they saw increased levels of two types of white blood cells: monocytes and lymphocytes. While certain lymphocytes are instrumental in eliminating bacteria, viruses, and toxins; monocytes are indirectly responsible for the engulfing and consuming of pathogens and foreign materials. Researchers believe that the increased metabolic rate, which results from the body’s attempt to warm itself up, activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response.”

And this study in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that whole body cold exposure triggered “a drastic decrease in plasma uric acid concentration” while increasing the antioxidant glutathione.

Cold showers, baths and winter swimming also improve blood circulation, regulate temperature, stimulate weight loss, increase metabolism, strengthen the endocrine system, enhance fertility, alleviate depression and sharpen alertness.

If you would like to give cold water therapy a try, it’s simple. Start by turning the water cold for the final 30 seconds of your morning shower. Gradually increase the time until you are able to tolerate a full shower with cold water only. Some even get to the point where they can soak in a bathtub filled with ice and water. But we’ll leave that last idea for another time…

Article sources

About the author:

Carolanne WrightCarolanne Wright enthusiastically believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, Carolanne has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of organic living, gratefulness and joyful orientation for over 13 years.

Through her website Thrive-Living.net, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people from around the world who share a similar vision. You can also follow Carolanne on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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  • Dimitri Ledkovsky

    I’m older than I look (I think) and relatively fit without drinking/smoking habits. I have fallen into 45 deg. F water several times over the past three years and been forced to swim in it from five to ten minutes. This has resulted in minor hypothermia where it took upwards of three hours in a warm room to feel “like myself” again. These experiences are nothing compared to the ice bathing covered in this article. I don’t think “seniors” would make very good subjects for this ice-bathing health practice. Remember that Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were once touted as the healthiest food on earth. Everything in measure.