You’ve probably heard about this new health trend that seems to be all the rage at the moment: the cold water plunge. It’s been used by pro athletes for recovery in the form of ice baths for a while now, and all of the fantastic benefits of this practice has recently become common knowledge.
You may even have heard of Wim Hof, a legendary figure in the health and wellness community that can withstand extreme cold temperatures. He is spreading the amazing science of bodily and mind improvement via cold plunges. It all lies in the discipline of deep breath practices.
While the idea of jumping into a cold shower or bath isn’t as inviting as the idea of a warm one, the cold plunge benefits are abundant. We’ve collected what we think are a few of the most enticing advantages of this practice.
6 Fantastic Benefits of the Cold Plunge
- Reduces Inflammation/Swelling
It has been scientifically researched and proven that when the body is submerged into cold water, our blood vessels constrict, which means that swelling can go down.
- Increases Life Expectancy
According to Marie Claire UK, research seems to show that when we put our bodies into water that makes us uncomfortable, it can trigger our ‘fight or flight’ response. For example, when the shower is unexpectedly cold, you will jump out of the way.
This reaction can cause the body to engage in different reactions, and some include the activation of genes in our bodies that play a part in DNA repair.
- Boosts the Immune System
Renu Therapy states that immersion in cold water causes a specific reaction from white blood cells, which actually is an increase in this cell count. Because your body reacts defensively when plunged into freezing cold water, it calls on the white blood cells, the human body’s defense against infection.
- Improved Circulation
Cold exposure, through things like ice baths or cold showers, makes the blood flow in your body increase. This means that more blood will go to the various organs within the body, supplying them with oxygen and the other important components.
- Enhances the Lymphatic System
We have detailed that cold water therapy results in improved circulation, but in the case of the lymphatic system, it’s the tension within the muscles that creates a huge benefit.
Muscle contraction leads to the activation of the lymph nodes, the small organs that are part of getting rid of toxins within the body. Because cold plunging results in such intense contractions, the lymph nodes get a massive boost.
- Improves Your Mood
Renu Therapy details that a hormone in our body called Norepinephrine is the main reason why a cold plunge can benefit our moods. Norepinephrine is a chemical in the body that is a neurotransmitter and a stress hormone, which means it plays a huge role in the regulation of our happiness and sadness.
Even a quick cold bath can trigger a stress reaction in our brains, which in turn creates norepinephrine. This means that the brain will become more active, upping your energy levels, resulting in happiness.
Before You Start:
While the benefits of cold water plunges seem endless, it can also be a risky activity. Healthline details that because your body receives such a shock when submerged in an extreme temperature, in reaction, as we wrote above, the blood flow and pressure, along with heart rate, increases dramatically.
If you have any health conditions that are concerned with these reactions, it is strongly advised that you check in with your doctor before starting.
Don’t do this activity alone. This is because the body could possibly have a negative response (as detailed above), and the cold water therapy may induce an emotional reaction that you won’t like.
We mentioned that this practice can improve your mood, but it could also send you into a panic when your "fight or flight" response is activated. Make sure someone is with you, so in case of an emergency they can safely get you out of the cold water.
Gradually adopt the practice. Cold water is something we are not used to, so it can elicit negative responses. In an attempt to prevent this, begin with short amounts of time in the water. Slowly build your tolerance of these extreme temperatures.
Keep it brief. If you’re in the cold for too long, your body could go into a state of hypothermia, which is never good. Take only a few minutes in the cold water, because that’s really all you need.
Written by Bridget McIver.
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