If you’ve been on social media lately, chances are you’ve seen people dunking into bath tubs filled with ice, jumping into frosty lakes, or even taking a bitterly cold shower. Although this “viral trend,” could be viewed as a bit extreme, it actually stems from a health practice that people have been using for THOUSANDS of years known as cold water therapy.
What is cold water therapy?
Cold water therapy is the practice of exposing the body to cold water for therapeutic purposes. It is now gaining popularity in the West as a way to improve physical and mental health.
When the body is exposed to cold water, it goes into a state of shock. This triggers the release of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which have a number of beneficial effects.
Adrenaline helps the body respond to stress. It increases heart rate and blood pressure, and diverts blood flow away from the extremities and towards the vital organs. This helps to protect the body from the cold. Cortisol helps the body recover from stress. It reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system. In addition to these hormones, cold water therapy also increases the production of endorphins, which are hormones that have mood-boosting and pain-relieving effects.
What are the benefits of cold water therapy?
Cold water therapy has been shown to have a number of benefits for physical and mental health, including:
1. Reduced inflammation
Cold water therapy can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This is beneficial for people with conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.
2. Improved circulation
Cold water therapy can help to improve circulation by constricting blood vessels and then dilating them again. This helps to flush out toxins and deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
3. Boosted immune system
Cold water therapy can help to boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells. This helps the body to fight off infection.
4. Reduced stress
Cold water therapy can help to reduce stress by increasing the production of endorphins. Endorphins have mood-boosting and pain-relieving effects.
5. Improved mood
Cold water therapy can help to improve mood by increasing the production of endorphins. Endorphins have mood-boosting effects.
6. Improved athletic performance
Cold water therapy can help to improve athletic performance by reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system.
7. Weight loss
Cold water therapy can help with weight loss by increasing the production of brown fat. Brown fat is a type of fat that burns calories to generate heat.
What are the different types of cold water therapy?
- Cold Water Immersion: immersing in cold water (50-59 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Contrast Water Therapy: alternating between cold water (50-59 degrees Fahrenheit) and hot water immersion (100-104 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Cold Showers: just as it sounds
- Wim Hof Method: combination of cold water therapy with practices like breath work and commitment
How to SAFELY do cold water therapy?
There are many different ways to do cold water therapy. The most common method is to take a cold shower or bath. You can also try swimming in cold water, or using a cold compress.
If you are new to cold water therapy, it is important to start slowly. Start by taking a cold shower for a few minutes, and gradually increase the time as you become more accustomed to it. Experts suggest trying to submerge for 2 to 5 minutes when starting out, then slowly build your way up to 10 minutes.
It is also important be aware or how your body reacts. If you feel pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
There are a few safety precautions to take when doing cold water therapy. These include:
- Do not do cold water therapy if you have a heart condition or other health problems.
- Do not do cold water therapy if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Do not do cold water therapy if you are feeling unwell.
- Start slowly and gradually increase the time you spend in cold water.
- Listen to your body and stop if you feel pain or discomfort.
If you want to try cold water therapy at home, talk to your doctor first. They can confirm whether or not it is a safe and effective way to improve physical and mental health. If you are using this practice to improve sports performance, assist with injury recovery, or manage chronic pain, its best to seek the help of healthcare professional to ensure the successfulness of the therapy. Chiropractors and physical therapists are examples of experts that could guide you through cold water therapy.
The cold water therapy experience will differ from person to person. So learning which type works best for your body and health & wellness goals can make a world of a difference. If you are interested in trying cold water therapy, be sure to start slowly and listen to your body.