Take the Plunge!
If you’ve been following me on social media lately you will know that I’ve upped my cold therapy game from cold showers to snow baths. I know this wont last long with the warm weather coming but once the lake opens up I’ll definitely be jumping in to the icy waters for a moment or two. But why?!
I started taking cold showers about a year ago. I had heard about many of the benefits but couldn’t quite pull the trigger. I love a good HOT shower. My bestie is actually the one who got me started. She did 7 days in a row and gave me her daily reports and after hearing what changes she was noticing I decided to give it a go. The first few showers were short! I mean short, blast the cold water, do a quick spin and I was done. I slowly worked my way up, getting longer and longer. Ideally for a shower you want to stay in for around 5 minutes. I will be honest, I haven’t quite made it that far. Which is partly why I like the snow method better. It’s colder and more immersive so you don’t have to stay as long to get the benefits. It’s a win win. The same goes for ice baths or cold plunges in a lake. (Although I do see varying information on how long you need to stay to see benefits.)
Cold water therapy is not new. While it has gained popularity in the “bio-hacking” world, athletes have been using cold therapy for years and many cultures use cold therapy to promote healing. Some studies have shown that regular cold swimming/cold showers can help decrease tension, fatigue, increase thermogenesis, boost your mood, relieve pain in people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and showed a general improvement in well-being. For me, I can 100% confirm the mood boosting benefits. It’s invigorating and to be honest, quite addicting. Must be that surge of dopamine you get from shocking your body with the cold.
You don’t have to take my word for it. There are numerous studies that are showing the benefits. One study followed participants between the age of 18-65 for 30 days. Participants took hot/cold showers for different increments of time 30, 60 and 90 seconds, while the control group took normal warm showers. The study then looked at the number of days the participants self reported an absence from work due to sickness. The results showed a 29% reduction in sickness absence in those who took hot/cold showers.
Another study following 85 Germans who regularly participated in cold water swims found that they contracted 40% fewer respiratory illnesses compared to the control group. Personally I would do this purely for the immune boosting benefits. But many other studies have shown that cold therapy can improve much much more! It's been shown to help lower depression, anxiety, as well as reduce inflammation which we now know to be the root of most degenerative diseases. Research is also being done on how cold therapy might protect the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia. Cold therapy has also been shown to improve your circulation. When the cold water hits your body and external limbs it constricts circulation on the surface and blood closer to your internal organs speeds up it’s circulation to maintain your body temperature. Another study showed that cold baths can help boost fat burning and help to balance blood sugar.
Cold plunges may not necessarily be for everyone. Hypothermia is a real risk and there is a definitely a certain amount of stress put on the body. My suggestion is if you want to give cold therapy a try, wade in slowly. Work on your breathing before jumping in as the shock can induce hyperventilating. But the more you do it the easier it gets.
Enjoy and let me know the changes you see!