Written by Sarah Huerter
Cold plunges, also known as ice baths, have become one of my favorite wellness practices. I was able to cross off a bucket list item of mine by cold plunging in a frozen lake this past winter…in the Dolomites of northern Italy, nonetheless! However, it wasn’t always a modality I thought I was capable of or interested in doing. The cold hasn’t always been my friend. It took time and slow exposure to build the confidence and feel the benefits. That’s why it’s called a practice… and when you know the many benefits, it makes getting started a bit easier. So, what are the known benefits of getting cold?
Supports Immune System
Cold plunging promotes formation of new white blood cells in the body, necessary for fighting off viruses, infection, and sickness. Also, the root of nearly all chronic illness is inflammation. Cold water acts as a natural remedy to ease inflammation, in as little as 2 minutes of cold exposure, depending on the temperature. Cold water triggers vasoconstriction, reducing inflammation and swelling, improving aches, pains, and muscle soreness.
Supports Brain Health
One of my favorite parts of deliberately putting myself in the cold is the mental clarity that follows. The typical brain response is insistent that I immediately get out of the water. Instead, I calmly breathe through the noise and chatter of my mind. Getting to the other side is well worth this seemingly heroic effort. Endorphins and dopamine get released, resulting in a calm euphoric state. These hormones are the body's natural pain relievers. This boosts my mood and sharpens my focus for the rest of the day that follows.
Cold water helps increase lymphatic flow. Our lymphatic system helps remove toxic and cellular debris, molecules and waste from our body. Antioxidants are stimulated by cold water, and antioxidants support and protect our systems from oxidative stress. In short, antioxidants keep the body's mechanisms running efficiently, neutralizing free radicals and preventing damage to cells and tissues.
If you’re new to cold plunging, it may feel counterintuitive at first. However, the list of benefits are too significant to ignore, and it’s definitely something worth considering. Start with 30 seconds of cold water exposure in the shower, it’s easy to do and at little to no cost. Give it a try and verify it for yourself…from there, you can buy a couple of bags of ice and throw them into your bathtub and fill with cold water. Baby steps…but I promise that the results are undeniable! Give it a shot and let us know how it goes…