Are the Benefits of Cold Exposure Therapy Worth it?

As a health-conscious individual, you are likely willing to go out of your comfort zone to try out new trends and products that have promising anti-aging benefits. However, when it comes to cold water therapy, you might stop and wonder: Are the health benefits of exposing my body to frigid temperatures worth it?

Whether plunging into the frigid ocean or making an ice bath at home, cold exposure therapy has both physical and psychological benefits. In this article, we go into the health benefits of cold water therapy so that you can decide if it is worth the try.

benefits of cold exposure, cold water therapy are they worth it?

What Is Cold Exposure Therapy?

Cold exposure therapy is a practice which involves immersing yourself in cold temperatures. For optimal results, temperatures should be between 45 to 58 degrees fahrenheit or 7 to 14 degrees celsius. This form of therapy provides an array of physical and mental health benefits, from providing immune support to boosting mood.

Despite its recent popularity, cold exposure therapy dates back centuries. Similar practices were used in Ancient Greece to treat wounds, injuries, skin conditions, and illnesses. In the Roman Empire, gladiators used cold plunging to alleviate sore muscles post-battle. 

Today, there are plenty of methods to benefit from cold water exposure, including:

  • Ice baths: You can fill your bathtub or a trash can with cold water and ice to reap the benefits of cold exposure therapy. This is a popular method among athletes who are looking to speed up their muscle recovery. If you use this method, just make sure to use a new and unused trash can for hygiene purposes.
  • Body of water: Since most bodies of water are naturally cold, dunking yourself in a lake, river, or ocean is a great, natural way to benefit from cold water therapy. No set up is required; all you have to do is take a refreshing dip.
  • Ice packs: If a specific body part is bugging you, you can use localized cold exposure therapy by applying ice packs to that area. It should help alleviate any pain or soreness.
  • Walking: Do you live in a cold climate? Taking a brief walk outside in cold temperatures can have similar effects of cold water exposure. Your neighbors might give you some weird looks, but the less you bundle up on your walk, the more benefit you will get.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Cold Exposure Therapy?

While the positive effects of cold water exposure are continuously being discovered, here are the top five known cold therapy benefits.

1-It improves immune function.

Wondering if there are cold exposure immune system benefits? Some evidence suggests that cold water exposure can give the immune system a kickstart, which might enhance its ability to fight disease. One study, for example, revealed that people could naturally stimulate their immune function through using cold water therapy. [1]

However, these cold water therapy techniques were used in combination with deep breathing and meditation exercises, so it is hard to isolate the individual effect that cold water exposure had. 

2-It shortens muscle recovery time.

It’s widely believed that cold water exposure after exercise can reduce muscle pain and shorten muscle recovery time. Cold exposure causes the blood vessels to constrict, which reduces blood flow to the “injured” muscles post-exercise. Even though it seems counterintuitive, this can help reduce swelling and speed up the healing process. For example, one study showed that athletes who did cold water therapy had less muscle pain than athletes who didn't.[2]

3-It promotes weight loss.

Cold water exposure might promote weight loss. Research suggests that consistent cold water exposure helps the body convert white adipose tissue (WAT) into brown adipose tissue (BAT) . In other words, it transforms fat-storing tissue into fat-burning tissue so that the body can burn more fat. This process can result in additional weight loss.  [3]

4-It offers a quick energy boost.

This perk might be obvious, for exposing the skin to ice cold water is enough to wake anyone up. This is because cold exposure therapy stimulates your adrenaline production, making you feel more awake and focused.

5-It can improve mental health.

Cold water therapy might alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies suggest that exposure to cold water lowers one's heart rate, which subsequently reduces stress levels. Another study showed that ice baths and showers might help treat depression symptoms. [4]

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cold exposure therapy good for you?

Yes! Research suggests that cold exposure therapy can improve immune function, alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms, increase energy levels, shorten muscle recovery, and promote weight loss.

How do I set up at home cold therapy?

You can get the benefits of cold exposure therapy from the comfort of your own home by setting up an at-home ice bath, taking a cold shower, or applying ice packs.

When should I not do cold exposure therapy?

Cold plunges are not for everyone. In some cases, it can do more harm than good. It is best to skip the cold therapy trend if you have a sensory disorder, health condition, stiff joints, poor circulation, or are expecting.

Why is cold water therapy so popular?

Public figures like Joe Rogan and Wim Hof have popularized cold water therapy. Wim Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete and motivational speaker who created the Wim Hof method. This practice has been popularized as a supplementary treatment for anxiety and depression. [5]

Final Thoughts: Is Cold Exposure Right for You?

Whether cold exposure therapy is right for you depends on your health and wellness goals. If you are looking for natural ways to boost your mood and immune system or enhance your fitness training, cold water exposure might help you achieve your goals. It is best to use cold water therapy in combination with a healthy diet and a regular exercise and stretching routine.

More longevity hacks to improve your health can be found here