A cold plunge can also be termed as a cold water immersion. Based on science, it has numerous health benefits, such as boosting the immune system, increasing energy levels, reducing inflammation, speeding up the recovery process, etc. To get the most out of cold water immersion, you need to submerge your entire body, even your head, if possible. Being immersed in cold water plays a significant role in stimulating your leukocytes, thus improving your health and overall well-being.
What is a Cold Plunge Tub?
It’s a container where you can immerse or submerge your body in cold water. In most cases, cold plunge tubs are used for athletic recovery. In addition, you can find them in gyms as well as personal training centers. To retain the full benefits of this practice, you need to keep the cold water at or below 10C (50F). There are different types of cold tub plunge; therefore, choose the one that suits your tastes and preferences. Other aspects that you should consider when buying a cold plunge tube include price, the temperature of the cold bath, space, brand reputation, and features.
Why We Cold Plunge?
Exposing your body to freezing-cold temperatures might seem counter-intuitive, but health wise it’s helpful. Here are the top reasons why we cold plunge.
1. Speed Up the Recovery Process
Most professional athletes take cold plunges between intense workouts or after strength training. According to scientific research, cold water immersion can increase oxygenated blood, thus reducing muscle soreness and speeding up the entire recovery process. Active recovery will boost blood circulation, which helps in eliminating waste products from your soft tissues. Fresh blood flow delivers essential nutrients that help build and repair ligaments, tendons, and muscles. When you immerse yourself in cold water, your nervous system will temporarily restrict blood circulation in your legs and arms. In addition, it will force warm blood into your vital body organs. However, once you complete your cold plunge session, your blood vessels will dilate, thus increasing blood flow in your muscle tissues.
2. Increase Energy Levels
Immersing your body in cold water can cause changes in hormone secretion. According to studies, exposing your body to cold temperatures will increase the secretion of the norepinephrine hormone. This hormone is responsible for energy, focus, and attention.
3. Improve Your Sleep
There are various benefits of adequate sleep: it improves mental function, restores the immune system, aids weight management, boosts heart health, regulates blood sugar, relieves stress, and boosts athletic performance. On the other hand, insufficient sleep can deteriorate your health, thus increasing your risk of developing chronic health issues. Currently, most people are struggling with various sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy. Based on studies, cold plunges can improve sleep quality. This is because cold temperatures will increase the secretion of the melatonin hormone, which induces sleep.
4. Increase Your Happiness
According to research, a cold plunge can increase your happiness. Cold water therapy plays a vital role in increasing the secretion of norepinephrine. This hormone acts as a neurotransmitter and stress hormone. The main purpose of the norepinephrine hormone is to regulate anxiety and mood. In addition, it can improve attentiveness and energy. Some studies show that the norepinephrine hormone can treat various mood disorders, including:
- Aspects of bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
A cold water immersion can adjust your attitude instantly. In addition, increasing your happiness will boost your physical and mental health.
5. Improve Resilience
Exposing your body to freezing-cold temperatures can trigger hormesis and improve resilience. According to biology, hormesis is an adaptive response of organisms and cells to moderate intermittent stress. Therefore, a cold plunge can make your body become stronger and adapt to changes easily. The human body adapts to intense workouts similarly to how it adapts to cold or frigid temperatures. Immersing your body in cold water might be uncomfortable initially, but your body will adjust and adapt to the changes. This will improve your immune system, thus making your body become stronger.
6. Lymphatic Drainage
The lymphatic system can be termed as a network of vessels in your body responsible for eliminating toxins from your cells and transporting waste bacteria. Typically, it acts as a garbage removal service that gets rid of unwanted substances in the body. A malfunctioning lymphatic system may increase the risk of colds, infections, achy joints, build-up of toxins, etc. Generally, the human body relies on workouts to keep the lymphatic system circulating. Also, it relies on muscle contraction to eliminate waste products from the body. Cold water immersion can cause muscle contraction, thus boosting your lymphatic system.
7. Heighten Your Discipline and Focus
Making a conscious decision to immerse yourself in cold water requires mental strength and discipline, especially if it’s freezing outside. Having the ability to overcome hesitation and fear will improve your physical and mental health. Discipline and focus will help you thrive even in the toughest conditions.
8. Stimulate the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve can also be termed as the vagal nerve. It’s the main nerve of the parasympathetic system. The main objective of the parasympathetic nervous system is to control various body functions, including heart rate, immune system, and digestion. These functions are involuntary; therefore, you aren’t able to control them consciously. Exposing your body to extreme cold conditions through cold water immersion will boost the stimulation of the vagus nerve. Scientifically, when a human body adjusts to cold temperatures, parasympathetic activity increases while sympathetic activity decreases. These changes can lead to long-term improvements in pain management, mood, resilience, and well-being.
9. Boost Metabolism
The rate of metabolism determines how your body converts food into energy. This means that increasing the rate of metabolism will, in turn, increase your energy and aid weight management. Cold plunge can manage a healthy weight and burn excess visceral fat. This happens because cold temperatures force your body to improve metabolism and heat generation.
10. Increase Thermogenesis
Based on science, thermogenesis is the ability of a human body to produce heat. Therefore, cold thermogenesis is the creation of body heat when your body is exposed to acute cold temperatures. It’s the safest biohacking technique that aids weight management.
11. Boosts Your Immune System
Immersing your body in cold water can increase the plasma concentration of glutathione. Glutathione is an important antioxidant that plays a significant role in improving the functioning ability of the t-cell lymphocytes. Also, it activates your natural killer cells (Nk cells), which helps in boosting your immune system. Your body will have the ability to fight pathogens, including bacteria and viruses.
12. Offer Neurocognitive Benefits
Cold plunge triggers cold shock proteins, which replace and reinvigorate synapses in the brain that were lost during hibernation. Hibernation is an extended period of remaining inactive. For instance, extended periods of sleep can be termed as hibernation. Studies show that cold shock proteins can help in managing neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
13. Manage Inflammation
Cold water immersion has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help in managing inflammation and joint pain. As previously mentioned, cold therapy has the ability to counteract the side effects of muscle overuse, including muscle tightness, soreness, and pain. Cold water immersion can constrict blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of inflammation and swelling. In addition, the cold can act as a pain reliever and numb the nerve endings.
Hot or Cold Therapy: Which is Better for Recovery?
Hot therapy is the use of heat to boost blood flow to the affected areas of the body to promote healing and relieve pain. It’s more effective in treating sore joints and chronic pain, especially if you’re struggling with arthritis. There are various benefits of hot therapy:
- improve blood circulation
- Reduce chronic pain
- Speed up muscle recovery and healing
- Relax muscle spasms
- Improve range of motion and reduce muscle stiffness
There are various types of hot therapy: hot baths, hot packs, saunas, heating pads, infrared lights, and heating pads. There are occasions that you should avoid heat therapy, especially if you have a fever, open wound, swelling, vascular disease, broken skin, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.
Cold therapy is the use of cold-freezing temperatures to promote recovery and relieve pain. It’s an effective way to treat swelling and pain. Cold therapy constricts blood vessels, thus promoting short-term pain relief. Some of the benefits of cold therapy in muscle recovery:
- Numb pain
- Reduce swelling and inflammation
- Improves weight loss
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Speed up healing
There are various types of cold therapy: ice baths, ice packs, cryotherapy, and cold baths. You should avoid cold therapy if you have a sensory disorder, such as ADHD, OCD, autism, etc.
Which is Better for Recovery?
Hot and cold therapy are effective for aiding recovery from an illness, injury, or muscle soreness. These methods have been used since ancient times for speeding up healing and pain management. Some people may respond positively to cold therapy, while others to hot therapy. Also, other people find that a combination of cold and hot therapy is effective. Therefore, there isn’t a distinctive answer to determine which method is more effective because people respond differently and have different needs. Therefore, choose a method that suits your needs.