The aim of our research was to examine whether winter-swimming for five consecutive months results in adaptational changes improving tolerance to stress induced by exposure to cryogenic temperatures during whole-body cryostimulation (WBC). The research involved 15 healthy men, with normal bodyweight, who had never been subjected to either WBC or cold water immersion. During the experiment, the participants were twice subjected to WBC (3 min/- 130°C), namely before the winter-swimming season and after the season. Blood was taken seven times: In the morning before each cryostimulation, 30 min after each cryostimulation and the next morning. Additionally, control blood was collected in the middle of the winter season, in February. Our analysis concerned changes in hematological parameters as well as in reduced glutathione and oxidized glutathione, total oxidant status, total antioxidant status and in components of the antioxidant system: Superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione S-transferase and 8-Isoprostanes as a sensitive indicator of oxidative stress. We found significant changes in hemoglobin concentration, the number of red blood cells, the hematocrit index and mean corpuscular volume of red blood cell and the percentage of monocytes and granulocytes after the winter swimming season. The response to cryogenic temperatures was milder after five months of winter-swimming. The obtained results may indicate positive adaptive changes in the antioxidant system of healthy winter-swimmers. These changes seem to increase the readiness of the human body to stress factors.
Keywords: Cold exposure; adaptation; antioxidant effects; cold-stress response; cryotherapy; oxidative stress.