Background: The aim of this study was to determine the effects of exposure to cold and heat on the activity of selected lysosomal enzymes as well as on the activity of the protease inhibitor, which are all considered to be markers of cellular damage.
Material: Two groups of healthy volunteers were included in the study. The first group consisted of experienced winter swimmers who practiced bathing in ice-cold water once a week, while the other group was comprised of persons who had never taken part in winter swimming before. During the experiment all the participants bathed in a river with a water temperature of 0 °C. The same volunteers were later subjected to a sauna bath at an air temperature of 85 °C.
Methods: The activity of cathepsin D, alpha-1-antitrypsin, arylsulphatase and acid phosphatase was measured in the participant's blood serum.
Results: After exposure to cold water no changes in the parameters studied could be found. However, after the sauna an increase in the activity of arylsulphatase and alfa-1-antitrypsin accompanied by a decrease of cathepsin D activity could be observed.
Conclusions: Winter swimming seems to have no effect on the activity of the lysosomal enzymes. By contrast, an increase of certain lysosomal enzymes after the sauna suggests that it may be deleterious to the lysosomal membranes. Furthermore it seems that regular winter swimming combined with sauna, according to hormesis theory, induces some adaptive response.