Head to the Baltic seaside for health? Best after the season!

The best results are achieved by a two- or three-week stay, but even a few days spent by the sea by someone who lives in a smog-affected region on a daily basis gives noticeable benefits. According to Dr. Leszek Kosiński, an experienced physician, those who visit the coast after the summer season gain most.  

Firmus News: – Does the change in climate cure?

Dr. Leszek Kosiński: – It has a positive effect on health. It was noticed a long time ago. Particularly great interest in climatic treatment appeared in the 19th century, for which we have plenty of evidence in fiction. Ladies and gentlement were going “to the waters.” There was a lot of fad in it, but in many cases a change in climate saved someone’s life.

– How does it work?

– We cannot fully explain these facts scientifically, but a change in climate can have a positive effect on immunity. For example, a sickly child should change his or her place of residence for a few weeks and go to the sea or mountains. It is recommended that the period should not be less than 2 weeks, as this is how long it takes to adapt to new conditions. Proper climatic treatment starts after this period. Of course, the temporary change in climate conditions also has a positive impact on adults.

– Does that mean that leaving for a few days doesn’t change anything?

– No, not at all. It does, but to a lesser extent and for a shorter time. The healing effect of the climate can be compared to the situation of an athlete. When he or she prepares for important competitions, he or she trains more, providing his or her body with stimulation for greater effort. Similarly, a change in climate, i.e. different humidity, pressure, type of precipitation, and above all, temperature and a higher dose of movement than usual seem to provide the human immune system with mobilising stimuli which, although short-term, can help for longer. Someone who comes, for example, from the smoggy city of Krakow only for a week will not fully experience this phenomenon, but will at least experience lung ventilation.

– So it’s worth getting out of the smog environment even for a few days?

– We live in a region where there is practically no onerous industry. We enjoy the purest air in Poland. Every day, living here, we don’t think about this blessing. But we can hear reports from friends that even a short stay at the seaside has allowed them to breathe fully. This is the ventilation.

– Does season matter?

– If the intention of the trip is to improve your health, I strongly recommend the post-holiday time. The point is that it is quieter by the sea, there are no crowds, walking on the beach we are often alone. In the autumn, the iodine content in the air additionally increases, because strong winds cause a phenomenon called sea spray.

– In late autumn and winter, the Baltic Sea attracts lovers of cold water swimming. You’ve been winter swimming yourself for over 12 years.

– At the moment I’m having a short break due to some health problems, but surely before this year’s International Winter Swimmers’ Rally in Mielno I will return to practicing cold baths to swim together with others at the peak of the rally. There’ll probably be five thousand of us again.

– How does this sort of swimming feel?

– I can tell from my example. If I take a swim at noon, I’ll have as much power by evening as if I was on some kind of a performance-enhancing drug. You are more active, seem to be more efficient and move faster. Not without significance is the fact that one goes winter swimming in a group, so there are positive emotions of joint activity, rituals, strong positive emotions.

– Is there any scientific evidence of the positive effects of cold baths on the human body?

– I don’t know many, but I can mention here the research at the Academy of Physical Education in Krakow, which proved a positive effect on erythrocytes. Erythrocytes, or red blood cells, are morphotic elements to which blood owes its characteristic red colour. Their function is to transport oxygen in the bloodstream. Studies have shown a positive effect of regular cold baths – figuratively speaking – on the elasticity of red blood cells. Thanks to this effect they can reach even very narrow blood vessels and provide better oxygenation of tissues. Flexibility is measured by osmotic blood cell resistance. And this resistance improved significantly in the examined winter swimmers.

– What does regular baths mean?

– At least once a week. Just because someone goes once and immerses themselves in cool water, it will do them no good health-wise. This is about regularity. It causes, as I mentioned, improvement of the circulation, it has a good effect on degenerative changes in the joints. Note that the average age of winter swimmers is over 40. Not without reason. People just notice the good effects of this fun activity.

– Is this a hobby for everyone? Are there any health contraindications?

– It is a hobby for every healthy person, for whom there are no significant contraindications such as cancer, tuberculosis, cachexia, diseases that disturb the metabolism. Arthritis, pressure problems and diabetes are not exclusionary factors.

– Many people are attracted to winter swimming and yet they cannot overcome their fears.

– The barrier is mental. It’s a restriction we carry in our heads. If we want to start winter swimming, it’s worthwhile to experience it in increments. First, for example, extend the bathing period and take a swim in September. Then practice wading in icy water, first a minute, then two and more. First dip your feet, then immerse yourself to your knees.

– Okay. We’re done with the basics. We’re ready for the first full immersion. How do you do that?

– Definitely don’t force yourself. It’s better not to take a swim alone. If there’s any disturbing reaction, there’s someone to help us. Besides, the company is mobilizing. Before entering the water you have to warm up, run for a few minutes, do some shoulder swings, some squats. However, a warm-up should not result in sweat. Then, when we enter the water, we do not do it abruptly, but gradually until the body is fully immersed.

– How long can you stay in the water at first?

– There is no simple rule here, but not too long. Just a half a minute, one minute. You have to watch your body. Nothing by force. It’s better to get in the water again after a while. With time, we adapt to longer and longer immersions. The most experienced, regular winter swimmers can stay in cold water for several minutes. But remember, we need to move in the water! All the time. It’s about stimulating the blood circulation.

– What about small children?

– In the past, at rallies there were competitions for the oldest and youngest winter swimmer, or who would stay in the water the longest. I was one of the opponents of these competitions. Do not force children if they do not want to enter the water, and certainly do not immerse toddlers. This can be counterproductive or cause permanent psychological trauma. Winter swimming should be the result of a conscious decision of a person able to decide for themselves.

– Why would a winter swimmer need hats, gloves and “socks”?

– The gloves and shoes are made of neoprene, a synthetic rubber that is perfectly thermally insulating. The hat is worn by everyone who wants to… We lose the most warmth through our head, hands and feet. So if you want to spend some time in the water, it is worth using these inexpensive accessories. Shoes are also important in that we may not be able to feel sharp pebbles or frozen sharp sand with our bare feet and we can injure our feet. The gloves, on the other hand, allow you to keep your hands warm, which is especially useful when dressing, because with cold and stiff fingers it is difficult to fasten the buttons. And we should get dressed soon after we get out of the water.

– Not only do you swim in the “Eskimo Club” in Mielno, but also for years you have been securing the annual rallies in medical terms.

– Such protection is necessary, because with a group of several thousand swimmers something unexpected can always happen. Safety is paramount, which is why a live fence of scuba divers in thermal suits is on standby during a group swim from the sea to warn those who venture too far from the beach. Anyway, at some point we announce the end of the swim. Whoever stays longer does so solely on their own responsibility.

– The Winter Swimmers’ Rally in Mielno is a kind of peak of the “winter season”. But also in other non-holiday periods there are more and more people in Mielno.

– I’m watching the season stretch out, and that’s very good. For some people, especially at a certain age, it is not a good idea to come to the beach when it is hot. The best time for a health-enhancing holiday is early autumn or spring. But winter also has its charms, so it’s no wonder Mielno is visited in large numbers all year round, moreover, some people decide to live here permanently.