Why would I Cold Plunge, and what are the benefits?
Cold plunging can come in many forms; a cold shower, ice barrel, cryotherapy, cold water tank, or a jump into a cold river. Regardless of how, the common theme is submerging into really cold water. While cryotherapy is a well-known form of cold therapy, it doesn’t provide the same benefits as submerging into a cold bath. Many cold-plungers incorporate breath work into their plunge, taking rapid, deep and powerful breaths to circulate their blood and get the full benefits. Tony Robbins, Joe Rogan, and Laird Hamilton are all well-known fans of cold-plunging who start every morning with an ice-cold plunge.
While some might see cold-plunging as just another trend, it has historically been used for its health benefits. It is dated back to ancient civilizations as a part of their bathing routines. While initially this started as a way to cleanse their body, they eventually recognized the health benefits from bathing in cold baths. Two thousand years ago Seneca, the famous Stoic philosopher, described himself as the “cold-water enthusiast, who… used to inaugurate the first of the year with a plunge into the Virgo aqueduct”.
What are the benefits of a daily Cold Plunge?
If you're looking for the greatest health hack available, then look no further. A daily cold bath will do many things for your health and well being. The trick is to do it Daily. This isn't a once a week type of thing, you need the daily cold exposure to get all of the benefits. The benefits below have all been researched by qualified scientists, and have shown evidence-based results:
Increases your Happiness
Boosts your immune system.
Combats inflammation and arthritis with anti-Inflammatory properties.
Boosts your metabolism and helps with weight loss.
Improves your circulation.
Promotes lymphatic drainage.
Stimulate the vagus nerve.
Increases thermogenesis (control your own heat).
Heightens your discipline and focus.
Increase Your Happiness
How can Cold Plunging make you happy? The answer is quite simple, the cold water gives you a rush of Norepinephrine:
Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. It helps regulate mood, anxiety, and other functions. It helps mobilize the brain for action, and can improve energy and attentiveness. It is also effective in treating mood disorders like depression, aspects of bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
I can tell you from experience, a quick cold plunge at any time of the day is an instant attitude adjustment. Once you embrace and breathe through the shock of the cold, you start cashing in on your daily mood booster. Why is “Increased Happiness” the first benefit on the list? Well because it has the most impact. Need proof, just take a look at the “Wim Hof enthusiasts” Social Media posts, you will be convinced!
Boost Your immune System
The effects of cold water on the immune system have been studied widely. Cold water helps boost the white blood cell count by forcing the body to react to changing conditions. Over time, your body becomes better at activating its defenses. This is extremely beneficial, especially with COVID-19 and all of the other ways one can get sick.
Combats inflammation and arthritis with Anti-Inflammatory properties
Cold therapy can help you reduce joint pain and inflammation. Cold plunges have actually been scientifically proven to help counteract the side effects of muscle-overuse such as soreness, pain and tightness. When we dip into cold water, we constrict a lot of the blood vessels and this helps to reduce swelling and inflammation caused by the body sending too much blood to the affected area. Even better, the cold can actually numb the nerve endings and act as a pain reliever. Lot's of pro-athletes recommend soaking in cold water after a tough workout.
Boost In Metabolism
Your metabolism is how fast your body converts food into energy. The faster and more efficient your metabolism is, the more energy you'll likely have, and the easier you'll find it to lose weight. Not only that, but cold-plunging can actually aid weight loss by increased burning of "white fat" (bad fat). This happens because cold exposure forces your body to rev metabolism and get the needed energy for heat generation. It also starts to use brown fat (aka "good fat") to convert into heat energy. The rest of the body that is using energy, unrelated to heat production, starts burning up the "bad fat" and as a result it creates accelerated weight loss.
Cold-water immersion stimulates blood flow. When you immerse your body into cold water, the blood rushes to surround your vital organs. Your heart is then forced to pump more efficiently, pushing blood through all your vessels, and supplying every part of your body with the oxygen and nutrients needed. This sends the body into a "shock" state where all the blood begins to flow directly to the vital organs, replenishing them with oxygen and nutrients, and improving the efficiency of our blood flow for the rest of the day.
Your lymphatic system is a network of vessels that runs throughout your body, and transports waste bacteria and toxins away from your cells. It’s like a garbage removal service that effectively removes anything unwanted. When our lymphatic system isn't circulating properly we can quickly start feeling unwell, come down with colds, have achy joints, infections, and a build-up of toxins in the body. Usually the body relies on exercise to keep the lymphatic system circulating. Your body does not have an automatic heart pump to push the fluid around the body; therefore, it relies solely on the contraction of muscles to move the waste out. Cold plunging causes the body's muscles to contract, and gives the lymphatic system a huge boost by re-starting circulation and helping to get waste products out of the body.
Stimulates the Vagus Nerve
Exposing your body to acute cold conditions, such as taking a cold shower or splashing cold water on your face, increases stimulation of the vagus nerve. While your body adjusts to the cold, sympathetic activity declines, while parasympathetic activity increases, which leads to long-term improvements in mood, pain management, wellbeing and resilience.
Increased Thermogenesis (control your own heat)
Cold thermogenesis literally means the creation of heat when the body is exposed to cold water. This is considered one of the easiest and safest biohacking techniques that may offer the calorie-burning benefits of cold thermogenesis.
Heightens your Discipline and Focus
One thing you will always hear from someone coming out of an ice tub is that they notice every other thought disappeared, besides being in that exact moment. When the brain thinks that it is going to die, it goes into survival mode and the focus becomes laser aware. Your mind will not even allow you to think about your problems. All you can think about is that exact second that you are in. It's a perfect practice for mindfulness and being present in your life.
All of the benefits of Cold-Plunging point to tremendous benefits for your mind, body, and performance. With the addition of just a 2-minute daily routine, you can have all of the benefits described.