I was at a day spa in Brooklyn the other day and another in New Jersey last summer. As I flocked from treatment room to treatment room, there was one constant that I saw at both facilities—people submerging their whole bodies into less-than-freezing pools of water.
In New Jersey, I saw people do this under a waterfall, whereas in Brooklyn, there was a pool about 10×10 feet (big enough for one person), where people would enjoy this cold soak. As a grooming editor, I’m familiar with the benefits of cold showers every now and then, but what I couldn’t understand was why people wanted to dip into cold water after a massage, acupuncture, or a day soaking in heat pools.
After much extensive research, I found out the phenomenon is called “cold plunge” and it is a form of cold water therapy. So what exactly is this technique, are there any benefits, and how often do you have to be cold? Below, we break it down.
What is cold water therapy?
It’s no wonder celebrities, athletes, and trainers all prefer cold water therapy, also known as cold hydrotherapy. The practice uses water that is 15 degrees Celsius to help treat health conditions and stimulate health benefits. Some variations of this include ice baths, daily showers, outdoor swims, or cold water immersion therapy sessions—like what I saw at the day spas. The person will immerse their whole body in this cold water for up to 20 seconds to feel the benefits.
Speaking of benefits, what are they?
Experts believe cold water therapy can improve circulation, deepen sleep, spike energy levels, and reduce the inflammation in the body. And, because cold water constricts blood vessels—after a workout especially—the cold plunge helps reduce muscle soreness. Not to mention, the cold water will help cool you down and reenergize you post-workout.
Less muscle soreness
Athletes that soak in cold water for short periods of time after exercise have less muscle soreness over time. Think of how you put ice on an injury to help with swelling and inflammation. The cold water acts the same way. To get the most optimal results, combine cold plunge with stretching and active recovery (ex. walking).
Fast cool down
Whether running, playing soccer, basketball, football, tennis, cycling, or working out at a gym, high levels of physical activity can lead to overheating. When you immerse your body into cold water, it will help regulate and lower your body temperature fast. The key is to dunk your whole body in post-workout, not just tapping water onto you.
Boosts immune system
Cold water has been said to improve your immune system, therefore fighting illness. If you don’t have time or interest in going to a gym or spa with this type of service, you can apply the same technique at home with a cold shower or an ice bath. Make sure to stay in no longer than 5 minutes.
Got it, and what about side effects?
As you can imagine, with cold water plunges, there is a risk of hypothermia. To avoid this, make sure your experience is brief. If you are unsure of the impact a recent cold plunge had on your body or overall health, speak to a doctor.
If you want more workout content, read about why you should incorporate Pilates and yoga into your routine.
Photo via The Wellness Dubai