For centuries, humans have used the cold as an aid to their health. This comes in many shapes and forms, including the application of ice, cold air and even water. Recently, cold water immersion — or cold plunging — has taken the world by storm, with many singing its praises about the various health and recovery benefits it has to offer.
In practice, an individual submerges their body in uncomfortably cold waters, anywhere from 34 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, for a short duration of time (about three minutes). After said time has passed, they emerge from their plunge enjoying various improvements to their overall well-being.
Diving Into the Details
Immersion in the frigid temperatures of a cold plunge offers a variety of positive effects to the individual willing to test the waters.
Taking a cold plunge can help:
•Bolster Your Immunity to Common Colds: According to UCLA Health, the shock of cold water can stimulate the blood cells in your body that combat infection.
•Combat Symptoms of Depression: Although research and evidence are limited and inconclusive, a study conducted at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine found that the effects of a cold shower could improve one’s overall mood.
•Improve Circulation: Cold water disrupts your body’s level of comfort and forces it to enter a survival mode to maintain its core temperature. This results in an increased flow of blood throughout the center of your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
•Increase Metabolism: Your body’s self-regulating response to these uncomfortably cold temperatures requires energy to operate which, in turn, burns calories and increases your metabolism.
•Reduce Inflammation and Muscle Soreness: In response to cold water, your body constricts the blood vessels, which can ease the pain of sore muscles and inflammation.
Jennifer Sidman, MD, a physician based in Alachua County, can attest to the power of not only cold plunges but cold water and ice as a whole.
“Cold, in general, is something I recommend every day. I often use the term ‘prescription ice’ to help people take it more seriously as it is so effective, and people often don’t commit to doing it right,” Sidman said. “It is one of the best drug-free therapies.”
Before you consider taking a cold plunge, always be sure to make a mental checklist of the risks involved. You should always be cautious of the temperature of the water you enter and for how long you stay in. Staying in too cold of water for too long a time could lead to hypothermia or frostbite. Be sure to also be wary of cold plunges if you have an existing heart condition, as the cold shock you experience could lead to further complications.
Try It Yourself
Cold plunges are not exclusive to only gyms and fitness centers. There are a litany of products and resources available to help you get started at home on any budget.
For those on a lighter budget or looking to get started, you can convert your bathtub (or any container that can fit your body) into a makeshift cold plunge. This is easily accomplished by adding ice to a body of water until it reaches a temperature within an appropriate yet safe range.
If you are willing to spend a little more, complete cold plunge systems are available for purchase at certain vendors online or in select stores. This product differs in an ice bath in that it is constantly kept at a consistent temperature and requires no ice or drainage in between uses.
Wondering what to expect?
Jack Shuler, an Alachua County resident, shared his experience with cold plunging noting, “when you first enter a cold plunge, you start to breathe rapidly as your body goes into a cold shock. Once you calm your breathing to a steady pace, you can feel the soreness of your muscles leave your body and the recovery process goes into full effect.”
No matter the environment or rationale, the positive effects of cold-water immersion are an enticing offer and a fun, exciting trend, just always remember to be safe, be smart and always bring a towel.
***Always consult your doctor before doing a cold plunge.