Cold plunging has become incredibly popular in recent years. The activity involves immersing your body in cold water, typically 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But, is cold plunge good for you? And what are the potential risks? This article explores the benefits of cold plunge and the potential risks of immersing in cold water.
If you decide to try cold plunge, think safety first, Start with short durations and gradually increase exposure over time to minimize the risks. Our advice is to be aware of the potential adverse effects before you begin. Listen to your body’s signals and speak to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or underlying health conditions.
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What Is a Cold Plunge?
Cold plunging is the activity of immersing the body in cold water. Typically, the water has a temperature of between 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4 to 15 degrees Celsius. It can be practiced outdoors in natural bodies of water such as lakes, or indoors using specially designed tubs called cold plunges.
The practice involves immersing your body in cold water for a brief period of time. Anywhere from a few seconds up to several minutes for experienced users. They are often used by athletes after an intense workout and by sauna enthusiasts who enjoy hot and cold temperature extremes. They are often referred to as cold water baths, ice baths, cryotherapy, and cold water immersion.
Potential Benefits of Cold Plunge
Is cold plunge good for you? What does cold water plunge do for the body? Immersing yourself in cold water for a brief period is associated with several physical and mental advantages. Below we explore the potential benefits of cold water and ice baths. And, shed light on how they can boost recovery, stress management, circulation, and mental health
Athletes often use cold plunge after an intense workout session. Cold water immersion helps athletes bounce back more quickly and maintain their peak performance levels. The effects of the cold water on the body are believed to speed up recovery time. That’s why you’ll see so many people jumping into the cold plunge at your local gym.
RELIEVE MUSCLE SORENESS
Cold plunges are also used to help relieve muscle soreness and stiffness. When the body is immersed in cold water, your blood vessels constrict and then dilate when they warm back up again. This action helps reduce inflammation in the muscles. And, is a popular natural method of easing muscle pain.
Cold water plunges are also believed to play a pivotal role in reducing inflammation. The immersion of the body in a cold bath stimulates circulation. The heart begins pumping increased levels of blood through the body to try and keep warm. This helps flush out inflammatory byproducts and toxins from areas suffering inflammation. And, may believe it plays a role in the suppression of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
One of the most noticeable changes is improved circulation. When you jump into a cold plunge the initial shock of the cold water is invigorating. And, you’ll notice your heart rate shoots up in response. This boosts blood flow throughout the body and delivers increased levels of oxygen to your muscles and tissues.
MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
What about mental health? Well, one of the most popular benefits of using cold plunge and ice baths is improved mental health and well-being. In fact, many people use plunges for this benefit alone. The shock of cold water immersion triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones. This leads to an improved sense of well-being, reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.
It may also play a role in enhancing sleep quality. The ability of cold water immersion to reduce stress and promote a sense of relaxation is believed by many to improve sleep. It may help you fall asleep and help you stay asleep. The feel-good endorphins released help reduce anxiety and depression and relieve the worries that may be preventing you from falling into a deep sleep at night time.
JUST FEELS GREAT
And, most importantly, they just feel great! The experience is invigorating, rejuvenating, and sets the heart racing. Many people enjoy cold plunge simply for the pure thrill of the experience. It sends a jolt through your whole body and stimulates the senses. A brief plunge in cold water leaves you feeling alive, alert, and ready for what the day has to offer!
What Are The Risks Of Cold Plunge?
Now we’ve covered how cold plunge is good for you, it’s time to take a look at the risks. There are some potential risks you need to be aware of before you decide to cold plunge. Especially if you are a beginner. Below we explore the potential dangers of cold plunge and what you should do to protect yourself against them.
PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE
First up, cold plunges are not suitable for everyone. If you have any concerns at all about cold plunging you should seek professional medical advice before doing so. Especially if you have any underlying medical conditions. For example, people with heart problems, circulatory disorders, or respiratory issues may be advised to avoid cold baths and plunges.
COLD SHOCK RESPONSE
Plunging into cold water can cause a response known as cold shock. Sudden immersion can trigger an involuntary gasp reflex. This can lead to rapid and uncontrollable inhalation. And, if this happens when your head is beneath the water it can be a serious problem. Water could enter the airways and potentially cause drowning. The risk is greater for individuals who are new to cold water and ice bath immersion.
Another significant risk is hypothermia. Especially if you are a newbie or stay too long in the cold water. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. When this happens, your core body temperature can become dangerously low. It can be life-threatening and is characterized by symptoms of shivering, confusion, and slurred speech,
INCREASED HEART RATE
While increased heart rate can be a good thing for many, it can be dangerous for some people. When immersed in cold water, the heart begins to work overtime to try and keep the body warm and protect core temperature. For people with heart conditions or high blood pressure, this can cause complications by placing a burden on the cardiovascular system and posing a health risk.
Another risk of cold plunge is hyperventilation. This happens when a person experiences rapid and shallow breathing. It is often accompanied by a feeling of breathlessness. It can result in a loss of carbon dioxide from the body which can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting. And, fainting is bad news if you are sitting in a body of water.
A small percentage of people may experience skin irritation as a result of contact with cold water. The condition known as cold urticaria is rare and causes the formation of hives on the skin when exposed to cold water. It varies in severity from one person to the next but generally causes mild irritation.
How Long Should You Stay In?
The length of time you should stay in varies from one individual to the next. It depends on your level of experience of cold water plunging, your specific goals, and any underlying health conditions you may have. In general experienced users can stay in longer than beginners.
Beginners should start low. A short exposure of 10-30 seconds is a good starting point. You can then gradually work your way up to a longer session if you feel comfortable doing so. Experienced users can spend between 1-3 minutes immersed in cold water. And long term users are known to spend 3-5 minutes. For more, check out our full guide to How Long Should You Cold Plunge?
How Often Should You Cold Plunge?
The recommended frequency of cold plunging varies from one individual to the next. The best advice is to start low and gently work your way up. Listen to your body and respond to how it reacts to periods in cold water. Beginners should start with just one plunge a week and allow time for their bodies to get accustomed to the practice.
More experienced users tend to cold plunge 2 or 3 times per week, some even more. There is no one-size-fits-all rule. The factors you need to consider are your personal tolerance level to cold water, your individual goals, and your underlying health considerations. For more see out full guide on How Often Should You Cold Plunge?