Sometimes, to ignite the fire inside of you, you’ve got to get freezing, first! Cold water therapy is rising in popularity as we learn more and more about the benefits of doing so. Some of the best athletes, in fact, use cold water therapy as part of their routines. So, what are the top cold water therapy benefits, and how can you join the trend by properly incorporating cold water immersion therapy into your wellness routines? Keep reading to find out.
What is Cold Water Therapy?
Even though cold water immersion therapy seems like a new trend, it’s a practice that’s been around for centuries. The term refers to the act of using water that’s “cold,” or around 59 °F (15 °C) to stimulate health benefits. Some people refer to it as “cold hydrotherapy,” and it has recently expanded to include ice baths, cold showers, outdoor winter swims, or special cold water immersion therapy sessions.
The Benefits of Cold Water Therapy
There’s a wide range of scientific and anecdotal evidence that proves cold water exposure can produce benefits for overall health. Below is a breakdown of the most prominent cold water therapy benefits to know –
- Some studies show that cold exposure can increase an individual’s metabolism.
- Cold water therapy may also help reduce inflammation, sore muscles, and swelling. Hence, applying ice to injuries! Two separate studies involving cyclists and athletes specifically have shown that cold hydrotherapy sessions successfully reduced muscle soreness for optimal recovery.
- It’s also been proven that cold water therapy may be associated with improved quality of sleep, increased focus, and improved immune response.
- Other medical experts suggest that cold water therapy could help alleviate pain, due to the constriction of blood vessels.
- On the mental health side, some research shows that cold water therapy could help improve mood. Including, one study where participants experienced fewer depressive symptoms when taking two short, cold showers daily.
- Some who swear by cold water therapy, also report improvements in skin conditions like eczema and acne.
For something as accessible and simple as cold water, you can gain quite a few benefits. So, to learn how to perform or practice cold water therapy and immersion properly, keep reading for our top tips and best practices.
Cold Therapy at Home: Best Practices
First and foremost, it’s important to ease into cold water therapy. This helps your body build a tolerance to the cold, making it less shocking or unpleasant over time. The most recommended way to do so is to start off with cool showers. At first, you might want to start with lukewarm water and then drop the temperature to cold. Starting with small bursts of coldness (like 10-15 seconds) while gradually raising the time you can tolerate is another best practice to follow.
After you’ve introduced your body to cold water exposure a few times, you may want to skip the warm-up period and go straight to cold, which is also recommended for post-workout cold therapy at home.
Other methods of harnessing cold therapy benefits include –
- Ice baths – Add ice to bathwater to reach optimal cold water therapy temperatures of 50°F and 59°F (10°C and 15°C).
- Swim or dipping in cold water – Live on or near a lake? Utilize mother nature to the fullest, and take a short swim or dip in the cold water.
Last but not least, there are a few safety tips to follow too. Including –
- Talk to your doctor before starting cold water exposure as it can affect blood pressure, heart rate, and circulation.
- Especially in open water, have a partner or observer on hand in case of an emergency.
- Warm up when you conclude your cold water immersion therapy session, but not to the extreme with a hot shower, which can cause a sudden spike in blood flow and could cause fainting. Try putting on a hat or gloves or warm clothes, drinking a warm beverage, or eating food that’s high in sugar, which raises body temperature.
- Keep your cold therapy at-home sessions brief as it only takes a few minutes to achieve cold water therapy benefits.
The Bottom Line: Cold Water Therapy
So whether you plan on regularly taking a polar plunge in the great outdoors or plan to immerse yourself in the cold in the comfort of your own home, you now know the benefits of doing so. Because of these many health benefits, cold water therapy is becoming more popular among health experts, athletes, and everyday wellness gurus like you.
This guide not only taught you more about the benefits of cold water therapy but also how to begin using it yourself. So put these tips to good use, get out there, and tap into Mother Nature’s best and most natural healer: cold, cold water.
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