Up to a few years ago, the benefits of cold water immersion were largely anecdotal with only a few studies proving its efficacy. Now, there is much more evidence to support the claims that ice water is good for you, mentally and physically. In fact, scientists are discovering even more beneficial effects of cold water exposure.
Cold Water is Good for Your Physical and Mental Health
Cold water therapy has been discovered to improve health conditions like liver functioning and cardiac health, as well as combat depression and reduce stress and anxiety. Here's a look at some of the benefits of ice-cold water temperatures.
Recent studies have found that cold water baths can change unhealthy white fat into healthy brown fat, which is metabolically active. It also increases the development of brown fat, which burns calories.
In addition, immersion in frigid water makes your body use more energy to stay warm, which effectively burns body fat.
Cold water exposure triggers the release of adiponectin, a hormone produced by adipose tissue. Adiponectin obstructs insulin resistance and improves blood sugar regulation. This allows your body to use insulin effectively.
Relieves Muscle Pain
In previous years, cold baths were primarily used by athletes to reduce swelling and inflammation after intense workouts or events. The cold water delays the onset of stiffness, lessens muscle soreness (and the perception of pain), and decreases recovery time.
Another way it improves recovery time is through increased blood circulation. This enables blood vessels to carry oxygenated blood to where it's needed most. The higher levels of oxygen in your blood stimulate muscle recovery.
The increased flow of oxygenated blood also helps your system to flush out inflammation, this is what causes delayed onset muscle pain.
It's even possible that this increased blood flow will have long-term, perhaps permanent, effects that improve the functioning of your circulating system. The knock-on effects help people with high blood pressure and diabetes.
Full body immersion is the most effective way to stimulate the systems that alleviate muscle pain and reduces muscle damage and inflammation. This feeling can last for up to 48 hours.
Combats Heart Disease
Ice water exposure reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and related conditions, including blood pressure and high cholesterol. The trigger is the cold shock response, which is the initial shock when your body first touches the icy water. The response increases your heart rate, which mimics the response to high-intensity exercise.
Boosts Immune Functioning
Ice water swimming or plunging can play an important role in preventing infections. It also helps treat autoimmune inflammation.
Studies have shown that cold showers have a similar benefit to cold water immersion by stimulating the white blood cells that shield your body from viruses, including the common cold. You don't even need to spend several minutes standing under the cold water. Just 30 seconds in cold temperatures is sufficient to improve your immune functioning.
For example, a study found that people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick to work.
Cold shock can improve lung function because the moment that steals your breath away makes your lungs work a bit harder, making them stronger and more efficient. Cold therapy also improves liver function when the increased blood flow to the organ triggers enzyme production that is essential to flush out toxins and waste products.
Cold shock triggers the release of several hormones and neurotransmitters that improve mood and reduce depression, anxiety, and stress. Research has down that icy water immersion increases the level of dopamine (a feel-good hormone critical in mood regulation) by 250%.
Almost all ice swimmers report feeling joyful during and after wild swimming and feel they have a positive mindset. The joyful effect is caused by an endorphin (more feel-good hormones) rush following cold shock. The endorphins are released when the freezing water stimulates the nervous system responsible for relaxation.
We have a high concentration of cold receptors on our skin, all of which are activated when they're suddenly exposed to extreme cold. The shock can be of such a magnitude that it interrupts the neurological processes that maintain depression. It's not known if the effect is long-lasting because not enough research has been done in this area to conclusively prove all the beneficial effects of using cold plunge pools.
Which is Best: Ice Baths or Cold Showers?
Many people want to know if they have to go to the full extent of submersion in cold plunge tubs or if a cold shower will do. Evidence suggests that cold showers provide many of the same benefits as cold water baths, but not to the same effect.
It has to do with the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve provides a calm feeling when it's activated by cold water. It kicks in when the threat or stressor (cold water) is removed and results in the rest-and-digest phase. Not only do you have the relief of being out of the cold, but you also get calmness from the nerve. So your feeling of well-being comes from two sources.
An ice shower will stimulate the vagus nerve, but complete immersion surrounds the entire nerve and keeps it surrounded for a period of time. This stimulates the entire nerve and ramps up the effect.
The principle applies to muscle recovery because an ice bath reaches more muscles than a cold shower and the exposure is maintained for several minutes. In fact, the principle applies to virtually all the benefits, including improved sleep, increased range of motion, improved lymphatic movement, increased energy and alertness, and maintaining alkaline levels in the blood.
Enjoy the Benefits of Cold Water Immersion Therapy at Home
It's easy to benefit from cold water therapy in the privacy of your own home. Renu Therapy provides a range of home cold plunge tanks and ice bath tubs to meet your needs. You can even get a traveling tub so you can keep up your cold water exposure daily routine wherever you go.
Contact us now to find out which of our tanks bests suits you. Complete the contact form on our website or call us at 714-6170-2007 at RENU Therapy today!