What is cold water therapy?

Cold water therapy is immersing your body in cold water, usually less than 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The actual method of immersion can be done in a few different ways – from a cold shower to an ice bath to a cold plunge in a cold body of water. 

While cold water therapy has been around for centuries (if not millennia), recent scientific research has really shown the variety of health benefits that cold water can have on your body, from increased circulation to boosted immune system to faster muscle recovery. 

Read on for everything you need to know about the science behind cold water therapy and the benefits you may get from adding the occasional cold plunge to your wellness routine.

The science behind cold water plunges

Your body’s normal body temperature usually falls between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can imagine the shock that immersing in water that is sub-59 degrees can bring to your system. But, that shock causes short and long-term changes that bring a variety of health benefits. 

The initial internal reaction when your skin hits cold water is called the cold shock response, which is where your body changes to adapt to the sudden change in temperature, namely by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. 

Quickly after that initial immersion, your body starts getting used to the colder temperature while your blood vessels constrict to conserve heat, and endorphins are released which improves your mood. 

It’s important to note that too much time spent in cold water can have negative consequences, like hypothermia, so cold water therapy is thought to be safest and most beneficial with three to five minutes of immersion. 

Once you get out of the cold water, your body immediately starts restoring itself to a normal state by dilating blood vessels, increasing blood circulation, and lowering your heart rate. This is where many people start to feel the physical benefits of cold water therapy, like boosted mood and improved energy. 

Benefits of cold water therapy for health

There’s a reason cold water therapy has become so popular in recent years, and that’s because it’s scientifically proven to profoundly impact your body and, therefore, your health. A few of the most sought-after benefits of cold water therapy include:

Better focus, mood, and energy levels: Thanks to the release of endorphins and other chemicals within the brain while exposed to cold water, you’ll emerge from your cold plunge feeling energized, alert, and refreshed, and these effects can last long after your body warms back up as those neurochemicals stay behind. This release of chemicals, most notably endorphins and dopamine, can also relieve anxiety and stress while regulating sleep and blood pressure, leading to an overall improved mood.

Faster recovery: In the same way that you may ice an injury to reduce pain and swelling, cold water therapy has essentially the same impact on your muscles, especially after a strenuous workout. By immersing in cold water, muscle inflammation is reduced, and the time it takes your muscles to recover shortens. 

Improved sleep quality and quantity: Several studies have shown that cold water therapy greatly improves the depth of sleep you have, allowing you to wake feeling more rested and energized. Sleep quality is crucial to some other key bodily processes, like muscle recovery and regulating mood.

More efficient weight loss: For those trying to lose weight, cold water therapy can be a great addition to a weight loss routine for a few different reasons. First, cold water therapy has been shown to boost your metabolism, making it easier for your body to take in essential nutrients and create energy. And second, cold water can help your body convert fat into a more beneficial form that can be used to produce heat instead of stored as unhealthy, unusable fat. 

While there is always more research to be done when it comes to wellness, science has shown time and time again that cold water therapy opens the door to better health.

Still have questions about cold water therapy or ready to take the plunge yourself? Contact the 10X Health team today.

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