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Is Cold Plunge Good For You?

Does the idea of plunging into a pool of icy cold water conjure images of brave souls in Scandinavian cultures?  These days, that image includes that of thrill-seekers and extreme athletes. I first began by taking cold showers in 2019 after a friend had written a book on the topic. But cold plunge isn’t just for the daring and the bold – it has become very popular in wellness and health circles. One cold morning in February of 2021, about 20 of my friends and I drove up to Big Bear Lake.  We spent less than 10 minutes submerged up to our necks in the 40 degree water. It was amazing!

But is cold plunge actually good for you? Studies have suggested possible benefits, but does the verdict have good news for everyone? Cold plunge, also known as cold therapy, hydrotherapy, or cryotherapy, is a practice of rapidly lowering the body’s temperature by exposure to freezing or icy cold water. It can involve total immersion, wading, or standing in a pool of the coldest temperature available. Modern technology now allows us to replicate the same experience and sensation with specially-designed cold plunge tubs. For example, I’m in one almost every time I’m at my trainer. Different types of cold plunge temperatures are suggested, ranging from 44°F/7°C to 57°F/14°C – and some even go deeper and colder than that. So what exactly does this do for our bodies? Recent studies have suggested that cold plunge may have various physical health benefits, with its therapeutic effects spanning from both the mind and body. From boosting the immune system to improving joint and muscle performance, the potential benefits could be far-reaching. However, is it really beneficial for everyone? Find out more in this blog post and decide if taking a dip in the cold is actually good for you.

I. Introduction

Incorporating a cold plunge into one’s wellness routine can be a great way to reap its numerous health benefits. This method of hydrotherapy is widely used to regulate body temperature, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and strengthen one’s immune system. A cold plunge can be done in a variety of ways, such as cold showers, ice baths, or cold plunge pools. It is important to note, however, that the practice should be done in moderation since it can lead to issues such as headaches and fatigue.

When done correctly, it can be an effective way to maximize one’s physical and emotional wellbeing. It can also be combined with other wellness strategies, such as yoga and meditation, to create a holistic routine. Additionally, cold plunges can also be used for muscle recovery after an intense workout or to reduce muscle tension throughout the body. Cold plunge can be used to jump-start one’s wellness journey and help people become healthier. When I took Tyson McGuffin’s two day pickleball camp, we were on the court for 6 hours on day one. This was A LOT more than I was used to. A well-timed ice bath that evening helped me bounce back for day two.

II. Benefits of Cold Plunge

Cold plunge has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years for its many benefits to one’s physical and mental wellbeing. It is a form of hydrotherapy that can be done in an ice bath, plunge pool, or cold shower. By lowering one’s body temperature to a certain degree, the body responds by increasing its circulation, which in turn can help reduce inflammation and muscle fatigue, and most relevant to us, speed up tissue recovery. 

In addition to reducing inflammation, it also helps promote relaxation and stress relief. Since it stimulates the production of endorphins, it can help reduce stress hormone levels, resulting in a relaxed and calm feeling. It also helps the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells, resulting in improved overall health.

III. Risks of Cold Plunge

Cold plunges are a popular wellness trend that provide numerous health benefits, but they also come with several risks that should be considered. When done correctly, it can reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and improve circulation. However, it may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with underlying medical conditions.

The most common risk associated with cold plunging is the potential for cold shock. This occurs when the body is unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature, which can cause lightheadedness, nausea, and even fainting. Therefore, it is important to start out slow by gradually lowering the temperature and monitoring your body’s reaction. Additionally, it’s important to stay hydrated and warm up with a hot shower after the cold plunge session.

IV. Tips for a Safe Cold Plunge

Cold plunges, also known as ice baths, are gaining popularity in the fitness industry as an activity that can help with muscle recovery and overall health. While they can have many benefits, there are still a few safety tips to keep in mind before taking the plunge.

Firstly, it’s important to make sure your body is properly warmed up before getting into the cold water. Start by using a sauna or taking a warm bath to raise your core temperature. When finished, be sure to slowly get out and dry yourself off to avoid any shock to your body. Additionally, it’s important to limit the amount of time each cold plunge session, as staying in too long can put your health at risk. Most experts I speak with don’t see a need in going past 4 minutes. 

One way to begin is to start with a warm/hot shower, and then at then end, switch off the hot water and finish cold. Try 30 seconds to begin, then increase your exposure time. Eventually, try starting the shower cold. This is a great way to introduce your body to the benefits while mitigating the risks. 

V. Take-away

Cold plunge is an effective way to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and speed up recovery. It’s also a great way to increase energy levels, reduce stress and tension, and even improve mental clarity. Cold plunge can be used as a preventative approach to health and well-being, or to treat specific ailments. Doing cold plunge consistently is a great way to experience the health benefits without the need for medication. For a deeper dive, check out episode 26 of my podcast where Michael Roviello and I discuss hydrotherapy.

Play on!