Cold water immersion, whether through swimming, taking a cold shower, or an ice bath, boosts the human body’s natural ability to fight off illness and disease. This ancient practice, brought to prominence by Wim Hof’s breathwork, is now undergoing mainstream scientific research and proving its health benefits.
A few of the most important benefits of CWI are:
The cold water makes your lymph vessels contract, forcing your body to move lymph fluids through the system. This helps to flush out waste and stimulates the immune system. Studies show that Cold Water Therapy can reduce the build-up of toxins in your joints and muscles.
It also improves the flow of oxygen to your lungs. This is because when the lungs enter the cold, they are forced to work harder to get oxygen through, thus boosting lung function.
Another way cold water therapy reduces inflammation is by slowing down the pain signals from your nerves to your brain. This works by slowing down the onset of muscle soreness after exercise and by helping to alleviate pain from conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatism.
In addition, regular exposure to cold water is believed to help improve blood circulation and lower cholesterol levels. It also appears to promote brown fat activation and boost stress regulation.
While it may seem counterintuitive, cold water therapy is one of the best ways to prevent the onset of inflammation, and keep your body healthy. From taking a cold shower to using a plunge pool, it’s easy to incorporate this wellness practice into your daily routine. For those who enjoy saunas, you can even add a plunge pool to your sauna for an extra boost in the cold!
Boosts Immune System
Cold water immersion is one of the most effective ways to boost your immune system. Research shows that white blood cells, which fight infections, circulate more rapidly after exposure to cold temperatures. This means that cold therapy is a natural way to help fight off illnesses, including common viruses like the common cold.
Another benefit of cold water therapy is that it helps to lower inflammation. Inflammation causes pain and can prevent the body from recovering after a hard workout. Cold water immersion increases the flow of blood to your muscles, which reduces inflammation and can speed up recovery time.
It is important to note that when starting a new wellness routine, it is best to start slow and work your way up. When it comes to cold water immersion, the key is to gradually introduce it into your daily routine. You can do this by taking a few cold showers per week. The simplest way to do this is to begin with warm water for a few minutes, then slowly transition into the coldest temperature you can handle for 30 seconds. Repeat this as many times as you feel comfortable. You can also try taking a cold shower after your morning workout. This can be a great way to kickstart your day and help to boost your energy levels.
When immersed in cold water, your body releases a surge of feel-good hormones and chemicals. These include norepinephrine and adrenaline, both of which can help boost your mood. Additionally, a study found that cold water immersion increases the concentration and alertness of individuals. This is most likely due to the release of the “fight-or-flight” hormones norepinephrine and adrenaline which improves mental focus and clarity.
This mood-boosting effect also comes from a surge of beta-endorphins, which is a natural pain reliever that can give you a sense of euphoria and happiness. Furthermore, the ice baths or cold showers will improve your circulation, so vital organs and muscles receive more oxygen which can reduce soreness and prevent injuries.
A study that tracked the effects of winter swimming in Finland showed that regular cold water swimming boosted general feelings of wellbeing. This is likely attributed to the release of norepinephrine, adrenaline, and beta-endorphins. These substances are known to play a key role in depression and stress.
Moreover, the study found that people who regularly engage in cold water therapy experienced fewer depressive symptoms than those who did not. This was mainly due to a reduction in negative mood sub-scales and an increase in positive sub-scales like Vigour, Esteem-Related Affect, and Energy. The improvement was consistent across participants. The researchers believe that the change is caused by a combination of factors including exercise, cold exposure, and blue space.
Cold water immersion activates the vagus nerve, which slows your heart rate. It also stimulates the release of mood-elevating hormones and neurotransmitters such as beta endorphins, boosting your body’s ability to cope with stress. A regular practice of cold water therapy can help you learn to handle and manage your reactions to stressful situations, according to a study conducted by Radboud University.
One of the biggest benefits of cold immersion is that it enhances mental alertness, making you feel focused and ready to face the day’s challenges. This is likely due to the nominal shock and the activation of the “fight or flight” nervous system, which stimulates cognitive abilities in the brain. Cold water immersion may also reduce fatigue and enhance recovery from exercise, a recent study found.
Getting into a cold pool, taking an ice bath, or simply taking a cold shower all increase blood circulation, which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and remove waste products like lactic acid buildup. This translates to faster muscle recovery and less soreness following a workout, according to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training.
Plus, cold exposure may reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a common complaint among athletes and non-athletes alike, when compared to passive treatments such as resting or massage, according to a meta-analysis of several studies.