While it’s not a craze that’s sweeping the nation exactly, tens of thousands of people take part in polar bear plunges around the world each year. The oldest of America’s winter bathing organizations is the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, founded by Bernarr Macfadden in 1903.
Macfadden was an early advocate of physical fitness, natural foods and physical exercise, and said that “our bodies are our most glorious possessions, that health-wealth is our greatest asset . . . that weakness is truly a crime . . . that every man can be a vigorous vital specimen of masculinity: that every woman can be a splendidly strong, well poised specimen of femininity.” He believed that a winter dip in the ocean would boost stamina, virility and immunity.
Actual polar bears live throughout the ice-covered waters off of Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Alaska with their range is limited by the southern extent of sea ice.
The bad news is that a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature warns that of a dramatic reduction in polar bear habitats over the next 10 to 50 years, due largely to global warming.
The good news is you can create your own polar bear – or penguins – in ice for less than $20 with ice cube molds from Japan’s a2-unit.