As cold water therapy keeps growing in popularity, you may wonder what all the hype is about. Cold water therapy, aka the practice of using cold water for a variety of health benefits, is mostly utilized in the form of ice baths and used as a recovery routine for athletes to help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness.
But, there are many more health benefits of cold water therapy besides recovery that may surprise you. We dove into cold water immersion more, and have gathered 8 benefits of ice baths that may surprise you and get you even more excited to take the plunge. The good news is, you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy them!
1. Boost Your Immune System
An ice bath a day keeps the doctor away? Maybe!
In a Dutch study, people who ended their daily hot shower with at least 30 seconds of cold water over four weeks had, on average, a third fewer sick days from work over three months than their colleagues who showered with hot water only.
This could be because your body responds to stressors, like cold water, by producing more white blood cells. These small but mighty white blood cells help your body fight off sickness and provide detox benefits by pushing fluid through the lymph nodes.
You may be thinking, “Doesn’t getting wet and cold, especially in the winter, cause you to get sick?” No, using cold water doesn’t make you sick, pathogens do. People gathering indoors during the cooler months is what spreads seasonal illnesses, not chilly temperatures. So no matter what the season, it’s in season to take a plunge into an immunity-boosting ice bath.
2. Boost Your Metabolism
Metabolic rate is the rate at which your body uses energy to burn calories. Cold exposure kicks this rate into gear — anywhere from 8% to 80% higher, according to studies — 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.
3. 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.
4. Boost 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.
5. Reduce Stress and Build Resiliency
It takes fortitude to withstand cold temperatures even for a short time, which is why ice baths build up your resiliency.
Sitting in chilled water acts as a physiological stressor and temporarily puts your body in survival mode (just like we talked about above). 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 starting to build your defenses to have them in place in case the ice bath happens again.
6. 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 to leave 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 tighter pores. In addition, it may soothe itchy, irritated skin on the face and the rest of the body.
For optimal results, start and end with cold water. Starting with hot water first will strip away your skin’s natural oils, leaving your skin feeling dry and tight.
7. Support Better Quality Sleep
There are several reasons why cold water immersion supports better zzzs. As we mentioned above, ice bathing relieves stress and improves your mood which is sure to make your sleep more peaceful.
Ice baths can also improve the quality of your sleep because your body temperature drops when you snooze. By taking an ice bath before bed, the cold water helps trick your system into sleep mode by telling your body it’s nearly time to call it a day and to start winding down.
Plunge Into Your Own Ice Bath
With so many surprising health benefits, from better mental health, sleep, beauty, and metabolism, to stress reduction and greater resiliency, there’s every reason to add ice baths 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.