The annual Icelandic Ice Bath Championships were held in the South Iceland town of Grindavík on Thursday, mbl.is reports. This was the third time that the event has been held. The competition aims to draw attention to the health benefits of cold bathing—both sea swimming and ice baths—something that organizer Benedikt S. Lafleur is very passionate about, having even written a Master’s thesis on the subject.
Participants immerse themselves in tubs of ice water at a temperature of 0°C [32°F] and then compete to see who can stay in their bath the longest. Last year’s champion, Vilhjálmur Andri Einarsson, set the national record when he remained in his ice bath for 20 minutes. In the lead-up to this year’s competition, some participants said they’d been able to sit in a cold bath for up to 30 minutes.
Though he knows the prospect of cold bathing sounds unappealing to many, Benedikt told RÚV that it is a completely safe activity for most people, although those with heart conditions are discouraged from the activity unless they have the approval of their doctor. He emphasized, however, the many health benefits that research has shown cold bathing to have, such as pain relief for people with arthritis. The human body is far more resistant to cold than most people realize, he said.
All participants were required to be at least 18 years of age and to ensure everyone’s safety, there was a nurse on the scene, just in case.