I started cold plunging last fall and I’ve seen major benefits of doing it consistently.
What is cold plunging?
Cold plunging, also known as cold therapy and cryotherapy, is essentially using cold temperatures for health benefits. Although you may just now be hearing of this practice, this type of therapy has been used for hundreds of years to decrease pain, improve recovery, and to improve overall health.
What are the benefits of cold therapy?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
When you take the plunge into your cold plunge pool, the chilled water instantly numbs the nerves that surround your joints and muscles, causing the release of hormones and endorphins. The release of hormones and endorphins acts as an analgesic, which relieves inflammation and alleviates muscle strain and joint pain.
Here’s a more specific look:
- Cold therapy causes the lymph vessels in the body to contract, helping the lymphatic system better do its job and supporting detoxification in the body.
- Immersing yourself in cold water stimulates blood flow, moving the blood through your vessels and around vital organ and cells in your body.
- Immersing yourself in cold water will kick start your metabolism by shivering.
- Soaking in ice baths after strenuous workouts lowers body tissue temperature and constricts the blood vessels, reducing swelling and inflammation.
- Research points to cold therapy boosting the production of antioxidants like glutathione and has also shown that cold therapy can increases levels of immune system cells that help fight disease and infection.
- Research shows that cold showers can help treat symptoms of depression and can also be used to help with anxiety.
How can you practice cold therapy?
A quick, free way to start, simply turn the water to cold after your shower and let the cold therapy begin! Start with just 15-30 seconds and work up from there. Other people who are more experienced in cold plunging (like athletes) often submerse themselves in cold tubs and ice baths. And whole body cryotherapy, in a specialized chamber using liquid nitrogen, is becoming available all over the place. I prefer to cold plunge in my pool.
The first time I did it I only made it a few seconds and I built myself up to 2 minutes last year. This year I have stayed in for up to ten minutes but have reduced that time down to about 4 minutes a day after my workouts to help with muscle soreness and inflammation.
It is important to start developing a breathwork strategy when you are cold plunging – the breathing exercises increase the benefits of the cold therapy. Some breathing techniques to try are:
- start simply by focusing on just controlling your breathing in and breathing out, completely relaxing the body on the exhale.
- you can then start trying to be more intentional with your technique and breathe in for count of 4, breath out for the count of 8.
- try “box breathing” inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold empty lungs for 4 seconds, repeat.
I have become really addicted to the rush of endorphins and adrenaline that releases when I cold plunge and very competitive with myself to slow my breathing and take control again. I try to cold plunge at least five times a week in my pool while it’s cold outside. It’s a great habit to add into the mix for your health.
Would you consider cold plunging?