How do you wake up in the morning? A shot of espresso? 15 different alarm clocks? Everybody has their own method, but you might want to consider an unexpected option for your early morning wake-up needs: cold water therapy.
Cold therapy can be a cold shower after a long, hot day, an ice bath after a strenuous workout, or a cold plunge designed to help your mind and body reset, recover, and rejuvenate! Not only can cold plunging help you hit the ground running every morning, but it can also work to improve your overall health, putting you on the path towards becoming the best person you can be.
We’ve rounded up the best benefits of cold water therapy and why cold plunging might become your new favorite habit.
9 Cold Therapy Benefits
You might be wondering what does cold plunging do? Well, the idea of using cold as a tool for therapy is nothing new. Going back to 3500 B.C.E., humans have been using ice and cold to help treat injuries throughout the ages. As time has progressed, humans have found more and more benefits of cold therapy, eventually leading us to the relatively new trend of cold plunges.
There are plenty of reasons to add cold water therapy to your daily routine, but a few benefits stand out:
1. Soothe Sore Muscles
Just like throwing an ice pack on a sprained wrist, cold plunges can help to reduce soreness in your muscles and sometimes decrease swelling and inflammation. Professional athletes and fitness buffs have been on this trend for a while, but don’t be intimidated — cold-water therapy is truly for everyone.
When you submerge in cold water, your blood vessels will naturally constrict. Doing this diminishes your blood flow, which in turn reduces inflammation in muscles. While this can be great for dealing with injuries and minor tweaks, you don’t need to be hurt to benefit.
There is evidence to suggest that cold plunges can improve circulation, thanks to the same idea of constricting your blood vessels. When you first hit the cold water, the circulation on the surface of your body (your skin) constricts. To try and maintain your body temperature, the blood in your deeper tissues will circulate at a higher rate, improving general blood flow.
2. Support Your Immune System
Your immune system is one of the most critical aspects of your body’s health, and cold water immersion may help improve it. So while it’s probably not a great idea to hop in a cold tub the next time you get the sniffles, a regular routine of cold plunging may be able to help you fight off future illnesses.
Studies have shown that exposure to cold water and cold temperatures can have an “immunostimulating” effect, which is a fancy way of saying that cold therapy can help your immune response.
Exposure to cold water can trigger your lymphatic system, eliminating waste and toxins within the body. Lymphatic vessels, which carry infection-fighting white blood cells, will constrict when in contact with cold water, forcing the lymphatic system to pump. This, in turn, triggers your immune system, boosting your white blood cell count and improving your immune response!
Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. While cold water therapy has many benefits, individual responses can vary, and the therapy may not be suitable for everyone.
3. Builds Resilience
Voluntarily dipping your body into freezing water challenges you both physically and mentally, pushing your body past its comfort zone. It takes fortitude to withstand cold temperatures, even for a short time, which is why ice baths build up your resiliency. Building up a routine of cold plunging can even help you develop better self-control and gain more energy.
While hot tubs are known for their relaxation, cold tubs are notoriously difficult to get used to. Nothing can prepare you for the first shock of taking a cold plunge, and unless you’ve actively practiced the Wim Hof Cold Therapy Method, it might be challenging to get your routine started.
Sitting in chilled water acts as a physiological stressor and temporarily puts your body in survival mode. However, brief and repeated exposure to this physical stress may improve your overall stress response in a process called cross-adaptation. Your body adapts to repeated exposure to ice baths by building your defenses to have them in place in case the ice bath happens again.
Even if you’ve started a routine, it won’t feel much easier to get in the tub every day— but pushing through that initial discomfort can help you leap out of your comfort zone. Of course, it’ll take some work to convince yourself, but by sticking to your guns and pushing through your discomfort, you might find it more accessible and easier to master self-control.
4. Boosts Energy Levels
You know that feeling of what it's like to be alive? Like, really alive in an energetic way? That's what plunging gives us. Our co-founder, Michael, is more of a hypo-aroused person by nature and says, "The energy I get from plunging is so important for me. I wake up feeling lethargic most mornings, but after I plunge, I have a significant boost in energy."
Sticking to a cold plunge routine can also boost your energy levels, thanks to a hormone and neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Norepinephrine in the brain helps to regulate focus, attention, and mood, and when we come into contact with cold water, there is a significant release of norepinephrine into our bodies.
This sudden increase stimulates our sympathetic nervous system, better known as our “fight-or-flight” response. Once this is triggered, we get a flood of energy as our body works through the physical stress of cold temperatures.
5. Boost Your Metabolism
The metabolic rate is the rate at which your body uses energy to burn calories. According to studies, cold exposure kicks this rate into high gear — anywhere from 8% to 80% higher — as your body works to keep itself warm.
Though it may not feel like it, shivering generates heat. That heat production requires energy, which results in a boost to your metabolism. An increase in metabolism from soaking in an ice bath may then lead to the next surprising benefit.
6. Support Weight Loss
Your body gets the energy it needs to keep you warm in the cold from brown adipose tissue, or brown fat. Think of a wood-burning stove that’s used to warm up a room. The wood is the “brown fat,” and the fire is the “metabolism.”
As your body shivers and burns brown fat, your body burns calories faster. This suggests that ice baths may help you shed pounds or help you maintain a healthy weight in addition to your regular health and wellness routines.
7. Improve Your Mood and Support Mental Health
If your mood needs a pick-me-up, an ice bath may do the trick. After that initial gasp from the shock of cold water, many people begin to feel invigorated and clear-headed. You can thank the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones, for that.
When your body senses cold, your sympathetic nervous system gets to work. That’s the part of your nervous system that regulates the “fight-or-flight” response, which involves the release of hormones, such as adrenaline and endorphins, to help you get away from a threat (or fight it). Your body perceives cold as a “threat” or stressor, which is why it works so hard to keep you warm and releases hormones that improve your mood and boost focus.
8. Strengthen Your Hair And Skin
Cold water therapy doesn’t only do you good on the inside, it does you good on the outside, too. More specifically, it can help strengthen your hair and skin.
Your hair may benefit from ice baths because chilly water can flatten ruffled cuticles, leaving it shiny and help it retain moisture to prevent breakage.
And because cold constricts blood vessels, ice baths may temporarily reduce redness and puffiness in your face and tighten pores. In addition, it may soothe itchy, irritated skin on the face and the rest of the body.
For optimal results, always start and end with cold water in your normal shower routine. Starting with hot water first will strip away your skin’s natural oils, leaving your skin feeling dry and tight.
9. Support Better Quality Sleep
There are several reasons why cold water immersion supports better sleep. As we mentioned above, ice bathing relieves stress and improves your mood, making your sleep more peaceful.
Additionally, ice baths in the morning have been suggested as a potential way to positively influence the circadian rhythm, which is the body's internal clock. Taking an ice bath upon waking signals to your body that it's the start of a new day. This 'clear' start helps your body prepare for the day ahead and may contribute to a smoother transition into the evening, promoting a more effective winding down for better sleep.
Take the Plunge Into At-Home Cold Water Therapy
With so many surprising benefits from cold exposure, from better mental health, sleep, beauty, and metabolism, to stress reduction and greater resiliency, there’s every reason to add cold therapy to your workout recovery routine or your general everyday routine. And it’s easier than you may think — learn more about taking your first ice bath at home here.
If you’re ready to reap these benefits of cold water immersion, consider adding the revolutionary Plunge to your recovery or daily wellness routine. The Plunge’s powerful cooling, sanitation, and filtration system make it far superior to any other cold water tub or DIY ice bath, plus it’s perfect for indoor or outdoor usage.Download our free ice bath protocols to start your ice-bathing experience, or learn how to maximize the benefits of your cold plunging experience.