Cold plunging, also known as cold water immersion, is the practice of immersing your body in cold water, typically for a short period of time. This practice has been used for centuries for its therapeutic benefits and is now all over the internet as one of the latest wellness trends.
Experts say these are some of the benefits of cold plunging:
- Reduces muscle inflammation and soreness: Cold water immersion can help reduce inflammation in the muscles and joints, which can lead to less soreness and faster recovery after exercise. This is why it’s common to see professional athletes soak in ice baths after a game or match.
- Improves circulation: The cold water causes your blood vessels to constrict, which can improve circulation and promote healing.
- Boosts immune system: Cold water immersion can stimulate the production of white blood cells, which can help improve your immune system's functioning.
- Improves mental health: Cold water immersion has been shown to improve mood, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and increase alertness.
If you're new to cold plunging, start with short dips and gradually increase the duration over time. A good starting point is 10-30 seconds, and you can work up to several minutes as you get more comfortable. You can also start with cold shower bursts as well if you don’t have access to a cold body of water or ice bath.
While cold plunging can offer many benefits, it's important to be aware of the risks. Cold water immersion can be dangerous for some people, especially those with certain medical conditions. Risks of cold plunging include:
- Hypothermia: Prolonged exposure to cold water can lead to hypothermia, which can be life-threatening.
- Increased heart rate: Cold water immersion can cause your heart rate to increase, which can be dangerous for people with certain heart conditions.
- Breathing difficulties: Cold water immersion can cause breathing difficulties, especially in people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
If you have a medical condition or are pregnant, you should consult with your doctor before trying cold plunging. Additionally, cold plunging may not be suitable for everyone, including those with cardiovascular disease or hypertension, Reynaud's syndrome, those with high blood pressure, heart disease, or other circulatory problems, those who have low body temperature at baseline and those who have pacemakers.
Cold plunging can offer many benefits for your physical and mental health, but it's important to be aware of the risks and to use caution when trying it. If you're interested in trying this practice, start with short dips and consult with your doctor if you have any medical concerns.