Cold Water and its Benefits

Come on in the water is fine! In fact, it is more than fine— it’s beneficial.  Some call it therapy, some call it mental. Call it what you want but numerous people will call it euphoria.  I am one of those included in the numbers who get a sense of elation from cold showers, especially swimming in cold water. Just ask Wim Hof “the Iceman” who can stay in almost freezing water for 15 minutes. It would kill most people!

The Origins of Water Therapy

One of the oldest known medical texts called the Papyrus from 1600 BC and ancient Chinese, Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilizations documented the benefits of hydrotherapy.  By the 19th century, warm and cold water therapy was globally recognized as an effective treatment to many ailments from physical to mental. It was said that “previous civilizations already knew the benefits of water and its many applications”, as the Body Genius Institute carefully researched the history of hydrotherapy.

If you enjoy the water and swimming, then cold water just might be your new exciting thing to do. I love it so much that I once had a dream I could breathe underwater.

The Benefits of Cold Water Immersion

The feeling of alertness and a natural high:

If you need a coffee to wake you up in the morning, then try jumping into a cold body of water. It will make you feel very alert and this feeling lasts for most of the day. The cold water stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system all the while revving up the endorphins. Those are released when we experience pain or pleasure. Once the body accepts the cold water (and it does…eventually) an experience of a natural high comes on. It’s very similar to that of a runner’s high. Cold water therapy studies have shown to relieve people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome.

Helps Relieve Sore Muscles:

Just like hot water, cold water is often used with athletes to relieve their challenged sore muscles. Known as a Finnish Spa that dates back thousands of years, hot and cold water therapy is still very popular because of its effectiveness. This method makes the body feel energized. The cold water improves blood circulation while activating the lymphatic system. The skin’s pores close which keeps in the heat so the blood pressure changes and promotes the body to flush toxins. Studies have shown, “Post-exercise cold water immersion, has been advocated to athletes as a means of accelerating recovery and improving performance”.

Relieves Depression and Stress:

On a physiological level, studies have also shown, that cold water is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response). It numbs our nervous system making us calmer and able to manage stress a bit more. All that cold water shock to the system increases the feel-good endorphins and activates the noradrenaline (synthesized from “the happy” dopamine hormone). Therefore the cold water stimulates the “blue spot” on the brain.

Boosts Immune System:

By either taking a cold shower or immersing yourself in cold water (natural bodies of cold water recommended), the metabolic rate increases to stay warm and increases our white blood cells as the body thinks it is under attack.  Thanks to our “fight or flight response”.

How to Start Cold Water Therapy:

Developing a daily healthy routine is important. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone. By nature, most people do not like change and prefer not to suffer, as a warm bath feeling is what they have become accustomed to. Rebooting the mind is important. This is where a little shock to the system will do the body good, getting the mind out of its comfort zone. No need to be extreme, start by slowly changing your showers to cool and warm and cool to cold. Intervals of ten seconds at a time to five minutes of cold water. Not ready for intervals? End your shower on a cold note, even if it’s just a few seconds!

Slow and steady…

The contrast in water temperature will help us adapt and eventually feel the benefits of the cold water immersion therapy. It is so satisfying that we will seek it out. Try a cold or at least cool shower every day for a month. You know it’s cold enough if it’s a little unpleasant at first. You may be surprised with more energy and having a better mood!

Waterfalls are a great place to immerse in cold water therapy!
Waterfalls are a great place to immerse in cold water therapy!

I also recommend breathing techniques that we deserve to take some time to explore the benefits. So many of us breathe poorly. I encourage you to check out this excellent breathing guide from Groom and Style.