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What is cold plunging? Exploring the benefits

cold plunge

Are you familiar with the practice of cold plunging? Well, whether you are or not, if you’re someone who enjoys pushing physical and mental boundaries, this trend might be just the thing for you.

Cold plunging is a time-honoured practice involving immersing your body in cold water for a brief duration. Rooted in centuries-old traditions, cultures worldwide have embraced it for its therapeutic attributes, and this practice is ever-present in modern society.

For example, the viral #coldplunge challenge on TikTok has amassed an impressive 500 million views, showcasing individuals boldly immersing themselves in icy waters to gain online attention.

In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of cold plunging and explore the mechanisms behind its effects on the body.

Additionally, we’ll discuss the physical and mental health advantages associated with this practice while also addressing any potential risks and precautionary measures to consider.

So, if you’re eager to learn more about cold plunging, continue reading!

Understanding Cold Plunge: An Overview

Cold plunging, alternatively known as cold water immersion or cold water swimming, is the practice of fully immersing your body in cold water. You can cold plunge in various settings, such as a bathtub, tank, swimming pool, or even a natural water source, like a lake or the ocean.

Ice baths are a popular option for cold plunging, distinguished by their position at the cooler end of the temperature spectrum. In cold plunging, the water temperature typically falls below 10 degrees Celcius.

The cold water submersion triggers the body’s innate temperature regulation mechanisms, leading to a boosted immune system and enhanced circulation. In other words, the outcome is a revitalising and invigorating experience that can leave you feeling refreshed. Sounds good, right?

How to acclimatise to cold water

History and Origin of Cold Plunging

Cold plunging is a practice that has been around for centuries in various cultures. It can be traced back to Nordic traditions.

Many believe that ancient civilisations used cold water immersion for therapeutic purposes, believing it offered mental and physical health benefits.

The plausible historical and cultural background adds depth to the modern-day understanding of the benefits of cold plunging.

How Does Cold Plunging Work?

Cold plunging involves exposing the body to cold temperatures, which sets off a series of physiological responses aimed at regulating and adapting the body to the cold environment. 

Firstly, it triggers shivering, which is a mechanism for generating heat. This, in turn, activates the body’s natural defence mechanisms against cold temperatures.

Additionally, cold exposure increases heart rate and blood pressure, activating the sympathetic nervous system and leading to the release of stress hormones. Simultaneously, vasoconstriction occurs to conserve heat.

Furthermore, cold exposure improves thermogenesis, the production of heat in the body, and increases calorie burning.

The physiological responses collectively assist the body in adapting to and regulating temperature in cold environments.

Ultimately, the core body temperature decreases during cold plunging, further contributing to the body’s adaptation to the cold.

Cold Plunging vs. Cold Water Swimming

Cold plunging involves brief immersions in cold water, typically for therapeutic benefits, with a focus on short exposure in controlled settings like bathtubs or cold plunge pools.

Cold water swimming, on the other hand, entails more extended periods of swimming in cold natural bodies of water, often for recreation or sport, and may require special gear like wetsuits for prolonged exposure to cold water.

Exploring the Benefits of Cold Plunging

Cold plunging offers a range of physical health benefits, including alleviating muscle soreness and inflammation.

It also boosts immune function and promotes overall well-being.

Additionally, cold plunging provides numerous mental health benefits, such as relaxation and stress reduction.

Incorporating cold plunging into your routine can have a positive impact on your overall wellness.

Physical Health Benefits

Cold plunging has numerous physical health benefits:

  • Improves circulation and cardiovascular health
  • Reduces muscle soreness
  • Aids in weight loss and metabolism
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Promotes healthy skin and detoxification

Incorporating cold plunging into your routine can lead to improved overall physical well-being.

Mental Health Benefits

Discover the mental health benefits of cold plunging:

  • Releases endorphins, improving mood and reducing stress and anxiety levels.
  • Enhances focus and mental clarity
  • Promotes better sleep and relaxation
  • Increases resilience to stress, providing overall mental well-being and peace of mind

Read our article on the mental and physical health benefits of cold water immersion for further information!

Potential Risks and Precautions to Consider

While cold plunges offer numerous benefits, like improved circulation, reduced inflammation, and increased energy, it’s important to be aware of potential risks.

Hypothermia and cardiovascular strain can occur, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions. To minimise these risks, gradually acclimate to colder temperatures, avoid prolonged exposure, and consult with a healthcare provider beforehand.

Incorporate cold plunges safely by starting with shorter dips and exercising caution when exiting the water.

Cold water swimming: Guide to temperature
Woman in ice water

How to Start Cold Plunging?

We advise newbies to cold plunges to take the following steps:

  1. To start cold plunging, begin with a brief dip in cold water and gradually increase the time.
  2. Lower your body temperature beforehand by taking deep breaths or doing light exercises.
  3. Start with your feet and slowly immerse your entire body.
  4. Always have a partner present for safety and avoid if you have any medical conditions.

To cold plunge efficiently, it’s essential to understand the process. Incorporate this practice into your wellness routine for maximum benefits.

Tips for Beginners

For beginners looking to try a cold plunge, it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase exposure. Begin with shorter plunge times and work your way up to longer durations.

Keep in mind any safety precautions, such as avoiding cold plunges if you have certain medical conditions or if you’re pregnant.

Essential Equipment for Cold Plunging

To fully enjoy the benefits of cold plunging, it is essential to have the right equipment. This includes a plunge pool or tub and a source of cold water. Some enthusiasts even add ice to the water for an extra chilling experience.

Monitoring the temperature is crucial, so a thermometer is recommended.

After the plunge, towels, dry robes, and a change of clothes should be within reach for comfort.

Optional equipment like aromatherapy oils, music, or meditation aids can enhance the overall experience.

Types of Cold Plunge Tubs

There are several types of cold plunge tubs available.

The traditional ice bath involves filling a tub with ice and water. Cryotherapy chambers use cooled gases to create a colder temperature. However, some people simply prefer to plunge into a natural body of water like a cold lake or river.

Speciality cold plunge tubs are custom-built to maintain a specific temperature, with many options on the market at varying prices. If you are looking for a tub at a low price point, it is also possible to create a DIY cold plunge by using ice and a standard tub.

Find the best ice baths on the market in our comprehensive guide.

Debunking Common Myths About Cold Plunging

Let’s debunk some common myths about cold plunges:

  • Cold plunging, when done correctly, is not dangerous
  • Short durations do not cause hypothermia. It can benefit those with high blood pressure under supervision
  • Ice baths are not necessary; cold water immersion works too
  • Cold plunging is not limited to athletes; anyone can experience its health benefits
How has cold water swimming impacted your overall well-being?

Five Common Cold Plunging Mistakes

Here are 5 common cold plunging mistakes and how to avoid them:

  1. Gradual Start: If you’re new to cold water immersion, avoid starting with extremely cold temperatures like a frozen lake. Begin in water between 10-15 Celcius and slowly decrease the temperature. All-in-one cold plunge systems allow you to adjust the water temperature over several days or weeks to acclimate gradually.
  2. Optimal Duration: The ideal ice bath duration falls between two and five minutes. Staying in longer doesn’t provide additional benefits and may lead to a drop in body temperature and potential hypothermia. If you start shivering, it’s usually a sign to exit.
  3. Consistency Matters: Consistent cold plunging yields the most benefits, particularly when establishing the habit. Regularity in your routine maximises the positive effects.
  4. Controlled Breathing: Avoid hyperventilating by consciously slowing down your breathing. Aim for a calm rhythm, perhaps taking eight breaths during a three-minute plunge, and consider holding your breath briefly after each exhale.
  5. Full Submersion: To maximise benefits, immerse as much of your body as possible, even up to your jawline. This exposes the vagus nerve in your neck to the cold water. If you’re experienced, you can submerge your head or at least splash cold water on your face to trigger a cold shock response.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cold Plunging

Is Cold Plunging Safe for Everyone?

Certain medical conditions may make cold plunging unsuitable for some individuals.

It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting.

Pregnant women, those with heart conditions, Raynaud’s disease, or compromised immune systems should exercise caution and seek medical advice before attempting cold plunging.

How Long Should You Stay in a Cold Plunge Tub?

To get started, aim for short durations of 1-2 minutes in a cold plunge tub and gradually increase the time as your body adapts.

It is generally recommended to stay in for no longer than 5 minutes at a time. Pay attention to your body’s signals and exit the tub if you feel uncomfortable or experience any adverse effects.

Beginners can start with shorter dips and gradually work their way up to longer sessions.

What Temperature Should an Ice Bath Be?

For an ice bath, the ideal temperature ranges between 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 degrees Celsius).

It’s important to adjust the temperature based on personal preference and comfort level. The water should be cold enough to provide benefits but not so cold that it causes extreme discomfort or pain.

Using a thermometer can help monitor the water temperature accurately.

How Many Times a Week Should You Do Cold Plunging?

The frequency of cold plunging can vary depending on individual goals and tolerance levels; however, it is generally recommended to start with 1-2 sessions per week and gradually increase the frequency if desired.

Listen to your body and give yourself enough time to recover between sessions. Consulting with a healthcare professional or trainer can provide personalised guidance based on your specific needs and circumstances.

Can You Cold Plunge at Home?

You can practice cold plunging at home, as it merely involves immersing your body in cold water for various potential health benefits.

There are different methods to do it, including taking cold showers, using a bathtub, creating a DIY cold plunge tub, or even using natural water sources if available.

Many ice baths have indoor and outdoor use, so you can often find a spot for your plunge bath even in small spaces!

The main benefit of outdoor tubs is that they can be filled up by a hose, whereas indoor spas may take longer to fill.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cold plunging is a practice that offers numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. The exposure to cold temperatures stimulates the body’s natural responses, leading to improved circulation, reduced inflammation, and enhanced immune function.

Additionally, cold plunging has been shown to have positive effects on mental well-being, promoting relaxation, stress relief, and improved mood.

If you’re interested in incorporating a cold plunge into your routine, it’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your cold exposures. Additionally, investing in a high-quality ice tub is essential to ensure a safe and effective experience.

Overall, the benefits of cold plunging make it a worthwhile practice to explore for those seeking to enhance their overall wellness. So, why not give it a try and experience the transformative effects for yourself?