Cold showers and dips in freezing water have been gaining popularity in recent years, with many people claiming that they provide a range of extraordinary benefits for both mental and physical health.
But are cold plunges really all they’re cracked up to be, or is it just another fad that will fade away?
Are cold plunges all hype, or do they actually provide some health benefits?
What is a Cold Plunge?
A cold plunge is just what it sounds like—an immersive plunge into cold water.
This can be done in the form of jumping into a cold pool or lake, taking a shower with cold water, sitting in an ice bath, or even using a specialized cold plunge tub.
The idea behind the cold plunge is to expose your body to safe and controlled doses of cold temperatures. This is thought to have a number of benefits for your health and well-being.
Increases Alertness and Energy
One of the first and most obvious things that you’ll experience when you try a cold plunge is an intense feeling of energized alertness.
This is likely related to how extreme changes in temperature can stimulate the production of adrenaline—the “flight or fight” hormone that gives you a burst of energy and focus. This can be especially beneficial if you’re feeling tired or sluggish in the morning, as a cold plunge can help you get up and going.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Cold plunges are also thought to be beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. This is because the cold water can also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are natural “feel-good” chemicals in your body.
These endorphins help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and can even help to improve your mood.
When you suddenly become cold, your body responds by tightening your blood vessels in an attempt to retain heat.
This can have the added benefit of improving circulation and heart health, as blood is forced to circulate more quickly through your body in order to maintain your core temperature.
This improved circulation can help to deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, which can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
Boosts Immune System
Some proponents of cold plunges claim that exposure to cold temperatures can help to boost the immune system.
This might seem contradictory to the common belief that cold weather makes you more likely to get sick. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Short-term exposure to cold temperatures acts as a minor stressor that temporarily stimulates your immune system.
If you practice cold plunges regularly (and safely), your immune system may adjust to the cold and become stronger and more resilient.
However, severe or long-lasting cold stress can have the opposite effect on your immune system. To deal with chronic stress, your body suppresses the immune system so that resources can be redirected to more urgent vital processes, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
To minimize this risk, it’s important to make sure that you’re healthy and don’t have any underlying medical conditions before starting a cold plunge regimen.
The Risks of Cold Plunges
While there are certainly some benefits to cold plunges, there are also some risks that you need to be aware of.
The most obvious risk of cold plunges is that they can cause hypothermia. This is a condition where your body temperature drops below the normal range, and it can be extremely dangerous if left untreated.
If you’re going to take a cold plunge, it’s important to make sure that you’re healthy and don’t have any underlying medical conditions that could put you at risk of hypothermia.
You should also have qualified caretakers standing by to help you undertake the cold plunge safely.
With the right approach and the right precautions, cold plunges can be a powerful tool for boosting your health and well-being.