Recently, Matt and I ordered a portable ice plunge bath, so we can submerge ourselves in chilly water and reap the benefits of cold water therapy.
As sometime who always runs cold (thank you hypothyroidism), this seems a little nuts, but the mental & physical health benefits are just too good to ignore, so we made the small investment of $150 for a portable tub.
I grew up going in saunas and doing cold plunges, but I never appreciated how incredible this was for me, or how lucky I was to have access to it. Then last summer, I was listening to The Huberman Lab Podcast (all science-based) about cold immersion therapy and it blew me away. After, I started periodically having cold showers and pushing myself to jump in a cold tub or lake whenever I had the opportunity. The mental benefits became so obvious….I just had to get one!
So why is cold immersion therapy gaining in popularity, again?!
Let’s explore the top 10 health benefits of cold immersion therapy.
1. Improved Circulation: One of the most notable benefits of cold water immersion is its ability to stimulate blood flow. When you submerge your body in cold water, your blood vessels constrict and then dilate upon exiting the water. This process, known as vasoconstriction and vasodilation, respectively, promotes healthy circulation and supports the cardiovascular system.
2. Enhanced Recovery: Cold plunge baths are often favoured by athletes for their potential to speed up the recovery process. Cold water immersion can help reduce muscle inflammation and soreness after intense workouts. It’s believed that the cold temperature helps to minimize tissue damage and decrease the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
3. Mood Boost: Taking a cold plunge can trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. This release of feel-good hormones can leave you feeling invigorated and uplifted, acting as a natural remedy for stress, anxiety, and even mild depression. In The Huberman Lab Podcast, he talks about how it increases your dopamine by 300% for up to 6-hours, increasing your motivation, focus & enhancing mood.
4. Increased Immunity: Cold water immersion has been linked to an increase in white blood cell count, which plays a vital role in bolstering the immune system. The exposure to cold water may activate the immune system and improve its responsiveness.
5. Enhanced Resilience to Stress/Building Grit: Cold exposure is a form of hormesis, where a brief exposure to a stressor (like cold water) can actually enhance the body’s ability to handle stress in the long run. Regular cold plunges can make your body more adaptable and resilient to various stressors. They use this in Seal Training for just that!
6. Better Skin Health: Cold water is known to tighten pores and reduce inflammation in the skin, potentially leading to a clearer complexion. It can also improve blood circulation to the skin, promoting a healthy glow and aiding in the delivery of nutrients.
7. Improved Sleep Quality: The practice of cold water immersion has been associated with improved sleep quality. The cold exposure can help regulate your body’s internal temperature, which is crucial for a good night’s rest. Additionally, the relaxation induced by cold immersion can contribute to better sleep patterns.
8. Increased Metabolism: Cold water exposure can activate brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of fat that burns calories to generate heat. This activation of BAT can lead to an increase in metabolic rate, aiding in weight management and energy expenditure.
9. Heightened Alertness and Focus: A plunge into cold water can trigger a surge in adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones that are responsible for increasing alertness and focus. This can help you feel more awake and attentive throughout the day. Who doesn’t need this?!
10. Stress Relief and Relaxation: While the initial shock of cold water might be intense, the aftereffects are often incredibly relaxing. The experience can induce a state of deep relaxation, calm the nervous system, and provide a sense of tranquility.
Incorporating cold plunge baths (or showers) into your fitness, health & mental wealth routine can be a refreshing and invigorating way to enhance your physical and mental well-being. It also makes you feel badass! As with any new health practice, it’s recommended to start slowly and listen to your body’s signals. Whether you’re seeking improved circulation, quicker recovery from workouts, or a mood boost, the potential benefits of cold water immersion therapy are certainly worth taking the plunge for.
My personal tips to getting started.
- Start slow: There is no need to go ‘balls to the wall’ and do a 45 degree cold plunge off the hop. Cold immersion therapy should be approached with caution, especially if you’re not accustomed to cold exposure. Begin by exposing yourself to cold water for short durations and at a moderate temperature. As your body adapts, you can gradually increase the exposure time and decrease the water temperature. Sudden, extreme cold exposure can lead to shock or other adverse reactions, so it’s essential to build up your tolerance slowly.
- Focus on Breathing and Relaxation: Cold exposure can be mentally challenging. Learning to control your breathing and staying calm can help you better tolerate the discomfort. Try the following techniques:
- Deep Breathing: Practice deep and controlled breathing before, during, and after the cold exposure. Slow, deep breaths can help you manage the initial shock of cold water and reduce anxiety.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Engage in mindfulness or meditation techniques to keep your mind focused and calm during the exposure. Concentrate on your breath or a specific point to divert your attention from the cold sensation.
- Progressive Relaxation: As you immerse yourself in cold water, consciously relax your muscles. Tension can lead to discomfort, so relaxing your body can make the experience more bearable.
Try Guided Cold Immersion Therapy Spas.
***NOTE: It’s important to note that cold plunge baths might not be suitable for everyone, especially individuals with certain medical conditions like cardiovascular issues or hypothermia sensitivity. It’s always advisable to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating cold water immersion into your routine, and to start gradually to allow your body to adapt.
Have you tried cold immersion therapy? Let us know in the comments below!
The badass approach to fitness, health & mental wealth,
Ashley Dale Grant