There are quite a number of recurring trends in health and themes that, despite our continually advancing technology, always seem to come back into fashion. Since the early 1900s, cold water therapy has been touted as a cure for several ailments, and it’s regaining popularity thanks to its ease and availability. Cold water therapy regained popularity most recently after a profile breathwork guru Wim Hof showcased his breathing methods for braving extreme conditions in a documentary. After steadily picking up momentum, the cold water therapy movement is now in full swing and can offer a number of health benefits. Here are some of the health claims made by its adherents, backed by science.
You’d think that being immersed in icy-cold water would put you into a bad water therapy has been shown to have an effect on both depression and anxiety, with little to no side effects. According to the journal Medical Hypotheses, this is due to the fact that ‘exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline, and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well.’
Whether it’s a swim in a cold tidal pool or an icy shower, cold water therapy can have a profound impact on your state of mental and physical alertness. A morning blast of cold water triggers your parasympathetic nervous system and gives you a sense of relaxed alertness, which makes it a great addition if you’re finding that your morning caffeine no longer works as well as it used to.
Improved Immune System
Increasingly, it seems like cold water acts like a jumpstart for your body. Our sedentary, indoor lifestyles have blunted some of the natural powers of our bodies and doing cold water therapy is one of the ways to reawaken them. A study published in the journal PLOS One, has shown that in a randomised trial in the Netherlands, cold bathers were 29% less likely to call off-sick from work. Although this was a small trial, there is a growing belief that cold exposure increases the number of white cells in your blood, which improves your immunity.
Cold water can wake you up but it can also help you to sleep. By slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure and body temperature, a cold water shower before bed is a valuable tool in our frenetic world where sleep is becoming more and more valuable.
Words by Joel Summers