How Long Should You Cold Plunge?

man stepping out of ice water

The best cold plunge time is 10-30 seconds for short exposure, 1-3 minutes for moderate exposure, and 3-5 minutes for an extended session. The level of exposure you should aim for depends on your cold water immersion experience, your specific goals, and any underlying health conditions you may have. Below we explore everything you need to know about how long you should stay in a cold water plunge.


Cold Plunge Times: How Long Should You Stay In?

How Long Should You Cold Plunge Infographic

Cold water plunging, also known as cold water immersion, has become an incredibly popular activity thanks to its wide range of physical and mental health benefits. It is believed to play a role in boosting circulation, muscle recovery, and releasing feel-good endorphins to name just a few.

But, no matter how used to cold water you have become, there’s no getting away from the fact that when you first plunge into an ice bath – it is an incredible shock to the system. However, your body will adapt with repeated exposure and soon begin to build up resistance.

This means people who are new to plunging should aim for short exposure while more experienced users will feel comfortable with moderate exposure times. And, seasoned cold plunge veterans can tough it out for extended exposure periods.

In short, the recommended time you should stay in a cold water plunge will vary based on your individual preferences, tolerance levels, health considerations, and what you are trying to achieve. Below we break cold plunge times into three distinct categories and explain who fits into each.

Short Exposure 10-30 seconds

Short exposure should be your starting point. If you are new to cold water plunging keep it brief. A plunge of just 10-30 seconds works well and is plenty of time to experience the invigorating effects of cold water. Especially if you are transitioning from a sauna or steam room to a cold water plunge. It will also help your body acclimatize to the practice of cold water immersion.

cold plunge in lake ice water

Moderate Exposures 1-3 minutes

Moderate exposure should only be practiced by individuals who are experienced cold water plungers. A moderate exposure time refers to an immersion period of 1-3 minutes. This is often the target range for most individuals and it’s the preferred cold plunge time for most gym and sauna users. Immersing in cold water for 1-3 minutes ensures you’ll feel the full benefits of cold water immersion.

Extended Exposure 3-5 minutes (or longer)

Extended exposure is only recommended for the most experienced cold plunge users and those who are familiar and comfortable with immersing in cold water for longer periods. An extended immersion refers to a time of 3-5 minutes, or longer. Many believe extended cold water immersion periods offer greater health benefits, especially in relation to reducing inflammation and muscle recovery.


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What Are You Trying to Achieve?

How long you should stay in a cold plunge will also be influenced by what you are trying to achieve. Varying immersion times are believed to work better for specific goals. If you are trying to achieve a specific goal, see the cold plunge times below. And, remember beginners should always start with short exposure times and gently work their way up if safe to do so.

cold plunge in the outdoors

Quick Refreshment 10-30 seconds

If your goal is to energize your system and feel the effects of a quick refreshment you should immerse for a very short exposure, just 10-30 seconds. This is plenty of time to shock the system and re-energize the mind and body. It will leave you feeling refreshed and fully awake.

Muscle Recovery 1-3 minutes

Muscle recovery takes a little longer. If you are trying to recover after an intense workout or training session aim for a moderate exposure time of 1-3 minutes. This extended period achieves better results for reducing inflammation and speeding up recovery.

Cardiovascular Stimulation 1-3 minutes

A moderate exposure time of 1-3 minutes works well for cardiovascular stimulation. This is plenty of time to get the heart racing as the body begins working hard to keep itself warm. Circulation improves and oxygen and nutrient-rich blood are pumped to the extremities.

Feel Good Hormones 3-5 minutes

If you want to boost your mood and trigger a flood of feel-good hormones you’ll need to stay in a little longer. This works best when immersed in cold water for an extended period of 3-5 minutes or more. Note, only experienced cold water bathers should attempt to immerse for an extended period.


How Cold Should the Water Be?

definition of temperature

Cold plunge water should be between 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the best water temperature to experience the full benefits of cold water immersion. It is recommended that people that are new to cold plunging should aim for a water temperature of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and experienced users immerse in water between between 40 to 50 degrees. For more see our full guide on Cold Plunge Water Temperature.


How Long Should You Cold Plunge After Sauna?

How long should you cold plunge after using a sauna? After a sauna, experienced cold water plungers should be immersed in cold water for 1-3 minutes. This is the best length of time to spend in the cold water to experience the benefits of hot-cold contrast. Inexperienced cold plungers should limit their immersion to 10-30 seconds until their body becomes acclimatized to cold water plunging.


How Often to Cold Plunge?

lady smiling and gesturing happily

Now we know the immersion time, the next question is – how often should you cold plunge? Cold plunging is recommended 2-3 times per week for experienced users. Consistency is more important than frequency as it takes time for the body to adapt. So, the advice is to aim for a consistent frequency.

If you are used to cold water plunging 2-3 times per week, great. Fire away and immerse your body every other day or so. On the other hand, if you are used to cold water plunging just once per week, stick to that schedule for the best results.  For more see our full guide on How Often Should You Cold Plunge?


Cold Plunge Safety Tips

Safety is key when using a cold plunge. And, you should always listen to your body. Never push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Start with a short exposure of just 10-30 seconds if you are a newbie and allow your body time to adapt to the cold water experience. Here are some tips to help keep you safe.

stay safe

Start Slowly

If you’re new to cold water plunging, start with a short cold plunge time of just 10-30 seconds. Repeat this brief session until you feel comfortable stepping up to a moderate exposure time.

Listen to Your Body

Remember, the ideal cold plunge time varies from one person to the next. Some individuals enjoy shorter sessions while others feel they need longer immersion times to feel the full benefit. Listen to your body and choose a time that suits you.

Health Conditions

If you have any underlying health conditions. If you do, you should seek professional medical advice before beginning cold water plunging. The cold water places a strain on the body that can negatively impact some individuals.

Water Temperature

The temperature of the water also plays a role. If it is extremely low you should shorten your plunge time. And, if it feels milder than you are used to you can increase your exposure to compensate.

For more check out our full guide – Cold Water Plunge Safety Tips


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About the Author

MAGNUS KARLSSON  (BSc, MSc)

• Senior Editor at Home Sauna Heaven

As a native Swede, Magnus developed a deep fascination with the art of sauna bathing from an early age.  Born and raised in the picturesque landscapes of Småland Sweden, he grew up in a family where sauna was deeply embedded in the community and daily routine.  He graduated from Linnaeus University with a Master of Science in Health Science with a special focus on the “Comparative Analysis of Traditional Saunas vs. Infrared Saunas”.

Moving to the United States in his late twenties, Magnus worked as a health and fitness advisor in a well-known spa and wellness retreat in Malibu California.  Over the next 12 years he became the spa’s leading sauna consultant and mentored colleagues on the benefits and applications of sauna therapy.

In 2019 he relocated to Florida to open his own wellness retreat in the Tampa Bay area.  Here he continues to inspire others with the restorative power of sauna therapy. In 2020, he became senior editor of Home Sauna Heaven where he shares his deep understanding of infrared sauna and offers expert advice on its applications, benefits, and periodic product reviews.


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