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As Wim Hof praises the benefits, we asked three independent experts for their thoughts.
We’ve bought you guides to cold water therapy and ice baths, but look for the question “is cold water bad for you?” is increasing.
Wondering why? Good, Freeze fear with Wim Hof It hit screens last week: a BBC reality show that sees world-famous stars take on icy challenges with the Iceman himself. That, moreover, in recent years, ice immersion has attracted millions of devotees around the world who rave about the supposed benefits for physical and mental health.
That said, many are still unconvinced. one 2020 study published in the Int J Environ Res Public Health. Journal found that while for more experienced cold-water swimmers the practice may bring benefits, for those who haven’t tried it before, there are clear risks.
However, more recent research suggests nothing of the sort, implying that cold water therapy could reduce chronic stress, combat symptoms of depression, and even help fight autoimmune disorders.
So: is cold water bad for you?
Short answer, according to the two experts we asked? Not if practiced correctly.
“Exposure to cold water has many health benefits, whether it’s through cold showers, baths, swimming, and even cold water plunges,” Kumaran shares. These are mainly due to processes called autophagy Y mitophagycontinues, processes in which the body removes damaged cells, allowing new cells to form or develop.
So how do they work to improve your health? Well, by enabling autophagy and mitophagy, it can help prevent many diseases and chronic conditions, the doctor shares, including:
- chronic fatigue
- autoimmune conditions
- Low energy
- slow metabolism
- Weight gain.
Not only that, but studies have found that it can improve mental health, speed muscle recovery, increase physical performance, strengthen immunity, protect brain function, and help control pain as well.
One study showed that ice baths increase norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline) by 530% and dopamine (the reward hormone) by 250%. “The burst of these two neurotransmitters sends your happiness and concentration skyrocketing, relieves pain and depression, and makes you feel on top of the world,” adds Fullerton.
He adds that cold water is not a new trend, no matter how much is currently being talked about, quite the opposite. “It has been touted for its health benefits since 3500 BC,” explains the CEO. Fun fact: Even the ancient Greek thinkers Hippocrates and Plato touted the physiological benefits of cold water on hydropathy, and the ancient Romans had cool pools in their infamous baths.
Fast-forward to today and there is incredible research in progress at the University of Cambridge, he shares. “So far, it shows that cold water therapy can protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is just amazing.”
Why is there a misconception that cold water is bad for you?
Good question, because for some, it’s not a cure-all.
Kumaran explains that while brief exposure to cold water (think a couple of minutes or less) should be fine for most, extended periods in cold water can be dangerous if you’re not acclimatized.
Think about it: You wouldn’t run a half marathon if you hadn’t trained (we hope), so suddenly plunging into cold water for an extended period of time doesn’t seem like the best of ideas either.
Not only can initial cold shock cause muscle weakness, movement difficulties, and cramps, but sudden exposure to cold could induce a shock response in your body in the form of hyperventilation (breathing too quickly) or cardiac arrhythmia (a fast or irregular). heartbeat), he warns. Of course, really prolonged cold exposure also runs the risk of causing hypothermia.
While no one is advocating putting yourself or your health at risk (think low and slow), Fullerton points out that immersion in cold water is bound to be somewhat uncomfortable. “Unfortunately, depression is now the most prevalent mental health disorder in the world, and cases of anxiety have nearly doubled since the pandemic began,” he continues.
“However, the silver lining is that people are more willing to get comfortable with discomfort and try things like cold water therapy to experience the incredible mental and emotional benefits that come with it.”
Bottom line: Cold water immersion has often been considered dangerous because it does too much, too soon. may Be dangerous.
Aspire to: 20 seconds or so if you’re a beginner, and two to three minutes after that for optimal health benefits.
Kumaran also recommends talking to a health professional if you have any concerns. Exposure to cold is not recommended for people who are pregnant or have a heart problem, high blood pressure, or asthma.
How does immersion in cold water feel?
Again, many who practice it regularly rave about the mental health benefits, more than anything.
So how does Fullerton explain the feeling you get after the dive?
“I first tried cold water therapy at a breathing training and ice bath workshop, and felt amazing afterwards. I fell in love with the giddy endorphins that follow each bath and the effect it has on my state of mind.”
“For me, ice baths are like hitting the reset button – if I can survive two minutes in the cold, I can handle anything! They make me feel resilient, strong and this mentality extends to all areas of my life”.
How to try cold water immersion yourself, according to the pros:
1. Start at a warm temperature (between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius). You can fill your bathtub or just stand under the shower.
2. Start your stopwatch and aim to stay under cold water for 20 seconds to a minute.
3. Go outside and try to notice the side effects in both your mind and body: Those who regularly use ice therapy notice a tingling sensation in their extremities and mental clarity.
4. As you become more experienced, you can change both the temperature and the duration of the immersion test.
“Remember, this is not a punishment, this is radical self-care and you deserve to know your version on the other side of the ice. Stronger, more resilient and in control,” advises Fullerton.
Do you want to give it a try?