Med­i­cal ben­e­fits seen in chilly dips

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - — REN QI

Yongjiang River, which runs through the cen­ter of Nan­ning, Guangxi Zhuang au­tonomous re­gion, is a pop­u­lar swimming spot among res­i­dents, es­pe­cially in the colder months.

Win­ter swimming has grown in pop­u­lar­ity along the 133-kilo­me­ter wa­ter­way ever since Mao Ze­dong took a dip dur­ing a Com­mu­nist Party of China meet­ing in the city in Jan­uary 1958.

The ac­tiv­ity reached a peak dur­ing the “cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion” (1966-76), when the local gov­ern­ment or­ga­nized win­ter-swimming con­tests.

Guan Hong started swimming in the river in 1993 at the be­hest of his fa­ther.

“He was se­ri­ously ill at the time and I swam only oc­ca­sion­ally,” Guan says. “Be­fore he died he per­suaded me to swim ev­ery day, say­ing that stay­ing healthy was the most im­por­tant thing in life.”

The 63-year-old is a mem­ber of the Guangxi Red Cross Life-Sav­ing Vol­un­teer Team and is among those to have re­ceived an of­fi­cial certificate from the re­gional gov­ern­ment.

He be­lieves win­ter swimming is good for the heart and vi­tal ca­pac­ity, and to prove his point he says that 10 years ago, after re­tir­ing, he cy­cled from Nan­ning to the north­ern­most part of the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­tonomous re­gion, the birth­place of his par­ents, and a dis­tance of nearly 3,000 kilo­me­ters.

“The whole trip lasted more than 20 days. When I reached my home­town all my rel­a­tives were as­ton­ished. If I hadn’t done all that win­ter swimming I don’t think I would have been healthy or strong enough to ride such a long dis­tance.”

Zhao Quan, 78, who has been swimming in the Yongjiang River since the 1960s, says: “Win­ter swimming is more than just a sport to Nan­ning peo­ple.”

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