Cold water immersion therapy is a form of cold exposure therapy, which is the practice of plunging into a tub or barrel of ice water and remaining submerged for several minutes as a means to reset the body’s homeostasis and provide various profound health benefits.
Today’s social media is rampant with celebrities and athletes filming themselves in their ice baths, attributing the practice to various life-changing health benefits.
Various methods can be used for the cold water session, such as cold showers, ice baths or ice water plunges.
How Does it Work?
The mechanism of how it works is this:
By forcefully exposing our bodies to extreme cold environments, we trigger the body’s natural stress and immune response, the same way a vaccine triggers an immune response for various diseases.
Cold exposure taps into the body’s natural healing systems, activating the nervous system, releasing hormones and triggering neurological responses which can significantly change our physiology.
By regulating the temperature and time of cold exposure, we can regulate our body’s stress factors (such as elevated heart rate, feelings of anxiety, muscle contractions, shallow and faster breathing), which in turn boosts our body’s natural immune response system.
This immune response will alter the homeostasis in the body, triggering the necessary physical, hormonal, neural and biochemical changes to cope with the stress factors, impacting and improving our mental health and cognitive function, improving our circulatory system, lowering the heart rate and blood pressure, and releasing the hormones that promote heat production, boosted energy levels, reduced inflammation and healing at the cellular level .
Nutrient uptake is also enhanced which in turn improves digestion.
Some of the benefits of cold exposure are:
- Improve circulation
- Sharpen mental focus
- Reduce inflammation
- Restore circadian sleep rhythms
- Deepen your sleep cycles
- Boost energy levels
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Alleviate anxiety
- Alleviate depression
- Boost immune response
- Boost metabolism
Cold Exposure Therapy Methods
There are many methods of cold exposure, such as cold showers, cold plunge pools, or ice baths. Ice baths are the most popular and easiest way to safely experience the health benefits of cold exposure therapy.
The Ice Bath
- Add ice to water to a bath until the temperature is between 50°F and 59°F (10°C and 15°C).
- Plunge your whole body into the ice water.
- Stay submerged for between 10 to 15 minutes.
Is it Difficult to Expose Yourself to the Cold?
This is the lurking question on most people’s minds when considering “taking the plunge” into cold exposure therapy.
Think of it this way:
If you were to dip your toes into the ice cold water, you would feel uncomfortable, and you would tell your self that “it’s too cold” to get in.
However, if you simply plunged into the ice bath all at once, you would notice that your body is already attempting to compensate for the extreme cold, and within a few seconds, you wouldn’t feel uncomfortably cold anymore.
At this point, you’ve already triggered the body’s immune response system, because the body is already working to change your physiology in real time.
The Ice Barrel
We recommend the ice barrel method, as it’s a practical and easy way to experience all the benefits of cold exposure therapy.
Pro-tip: You can add 1 kilogram of Himalayan salt crystals to your ice-water bath to lower it’s freezing point, which will prevent ice formation if the surrounding temperature happens to dip below 0°C. This will give the the benefits of wet salt therapy at the same time as cold exposure therapy.
You can purchase an ice barrel at the following link:
The official Ice Barrel from icebarrel.com.
Includes ice barrel, protective cover, stand, lid, step stool.