Ice swimming has been a famous sport in northern China for decades. In Haerbin, for example, ice swimming in the Songhua river has grown in popularity since the late 1940′s, and it is now estimated that 200,000 registered swimmers swim in the river during the frozen winter months.
Many Chinese people believe that ice swimming (water temperature usually around 3-4 celsius) has great health benefits. It is believed that ice swimming strengthens the immune system and that it clears the blockage in the capillaries of one’s body. Yet, for many among the elderly crowd that shows up in random lakes during the freezing winter months in northern China, not only health benefits attract them to participate in the sport.
“For seniors, having friends is extremely important”, says a man who is a frequent visitor to one of the lakes in Beijing. “Many people come here to socialize as well as to swim.” Many of the elderly people that come to the lakes have already lost their life partner, and since their children are working, ice swimming in the winter is a way for them to socialize with others, and to enjoy a hobby.
Watch: 81 year old Beijing resident takes a swim in 3 degrees celsius water: