Cold therapy has been used for hundreds of years in many different cultures. I have had a bit of experience with dealing with the cold over the years (think ice baths after sprint training). Since I met Wim Hoff AKA The Ice Man in 2017 I have incorporated a daily cold shower and a weekly trip to a cold lake.
At Connect Retreats I share my experiences of Cold Water Therapy. I give my guests the opportunity to try it out themselves when they join me on a hiking or fitness retreat. Taking part is entirely up to you, however, I wanted to share with you the benefits I have found from it.
Coldwater immersion activates the body’s natural healing powers. That can relieve the symptoms of many medical conditions and promote a sense of health and well-being. When practised on a regular basis, cold water immersion can even provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that enhance the overall quality of your life and best of all its absolutely FREE.
I’ve also included some videos to show some of my experiences. Like this incredible time in the Scottish Highlands…
Let’s take a closer look at the most important benefits:
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that run throughout the body, helping take away waste, bacteria, and microbes from your cells, essentially cleansing your body. your lymphatic system relies on muscle contraction to pump the lymph fluid through the vessels. If you don’t exercise or your lymphatic system it can become slow or inefficient. The fluid stagnates and toxins build up, manifesting in colds, joint pain, infection and even disease.
Cold water immersion causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste out of the area. This then triggers the immune system’s white blood cells to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid. The cold water affects the lymphatic system. This in turn affects the immune system, which ultimately keeps you feeling happy and healthy.
Cardiovascular circulation happens to be one of the most critical components of our overall health and well-being. With poor cardiovascular circulation, not only is the blood flow compromised, the heart becomes stressed. And this can ultimately lead to fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, muscle cramping, or even heart attack and stroke. With improved circulation, on the other hand, we can improve heart health, enhance mental performance, boost the immune system and metabolism. Simply give ourselves more strength and energy to live our lives.
Exercise and diet are two well-known ways to improve circulation. But cold-water immersion can also stimulate blood flow. When you immerse your body in cold water, the blood rushes to surround your vital organs. Your heart then is forced to pump more efficiently, pushing blood through all your vessels and supplying every part of your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Do this on a routine basis and you can help promote healthy blood circulation, and, ultimately, a healthy body.
Have you ever participated in a high-intensity workout and felt sore for days after? This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). For many, it can be so painful that anti-inflammatory medication is used.
Activity that pushes your muscles beyond the limits they are accustomed to can lead to microscopic tears in the fibres and inflammation of the tissue. But cold-water immersion has been scientifically proven to help counteract these side effects.
Cold water lowers the damaged tissue’s temperature and constricts the blood vessels. This helps reduce the swelling and inflammation and even numbs the nerve endings to bring immediate relief to any pain.
Feeling down? Try taking a cold shower. It may seem like a superficial fix, but the benefits of cold water immersion run deeper than you think.
A 2007 research study found that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms. If used on a routine basis, may be more beneficial than prescription medications. This is because, cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which make you feel happy. A separate study that analysed the effects of regular winter swimming on the mood of swimmers showed that after four months of routine cold water swimming, the subjects felt more energetic, active and spritely than the control group.
Check it this video of my time enjoying Cold Water Therapy in Dorset a few years ago.
When practised routinely, cold water immersion has been shown to boost the metabolism increasing whole-body metabolic rate by about 16%.
This voluntary deviation from the body’s ideal temperature causes reactions in the body to maintain the internal temperature; some of these reactions are increased metabolic rate to produce heat, which results in weight loss.
The benefits seen are long-term (adaptive), and thus not likely to occur with one or two isolated cold showers. They are directly proportional (to a degree) to the variance between comfort level temperature and the temperature one partakes in.
Forcing yourself to do something you really do not want to do will make you a stronger person.
There is no better way to get out of your comfort zone than with a cold shower. Getting out of your comfort zone on a regular basis can have a knock-on effect into all areas of your life, and we only truly grow and learn as human beings on the edge of what you are comfortable with. Staying in the comfort zone will lead you to a life of being unfulfilled, never reaching your potential.
If you are someone that always feels cold, cold showers can be a great way of resetting your bodies temperature control.
In the modern western world, many of us have lost the ability to keep ourselves warm. We are kept a constant temperate by central heating or warm clothing.
Over time your body can become dependant on external sources of heat, rather than relying on its own heat producing mechanisms.
Cold showers can reset your body to heat itself up. One of the many positive benefits of taking regular cold showers is feeling warm all the time! This can be incredibly beneficial for someone who battles with feeling cold all the time.
At the end of your morning shower turn down the temperate as low as you can handle. Stay in for as long as possible – I like to stay in for around 4 minutes.
Focus solely on your breath, take big deep controlled breaths. It will feel horrible for the first 20 seconds or so. However, you get used to the sensation of your skin being cold quite quickly.
Practice this every day and if you feel brave enough you could attempt an ice bath! Buy a few bags of ice from your local supermarket and fill your bath with them. Add cold water and submerge yourself in the ice. Try and stay in for at least 5 minutes to get the full benefits.
Conditioning your brain and your body to accept, endure and embrace cold water immersion may be challenging, but the health benefits in both the short- and long-run are well worth it.
Like with fasting you will be able to activate your body’s natural healing powers to properly support your physiological and mental state of being, and perhaps begin to simply feel healthier and happier.
Even if you begin with a quick, cold shower, lowering your skin temperature only briefly, the results can be dramatic!
Interested in trying cold water therapy outside? Consider joining me for a fitness or hiking retreat this year.