7 Amazing Cold Water Therapy Benefits
Max Lowery in ice-cold water (Photo: Tom Joy)
Max Lowery
By Max Lowery
Updated on April 19, 2019
Expert Content

Cold Water Therapy has a tonne of physical benefits, including boosting the immune system, improving circulation and improving your ability to regulate your body temperature.

It has anabolic effects and is highly anti-inflammatory, and because of a release in endorphins, it is even being looked at for treating some forms of depression – many people love its mood-boosting effects!

All those things are great, but I think the real power lies in forcing yourself to do something you do not want to do – which improves mental fortitude. This mental fortitude will permeate through every aspect of your life.

Cold Water Therapy Benefits

1) Improves Circulation – Cardiovascular circulation happens to be one of the most critical components of our overall health. Under conditions of poor cardiovascular circulation, blood flow is compromised, the and the heart can become stressed. This can ultimately lead to fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, muscle cramping, or even heart attack and stroke.

On the other hand, when circulation is improved, it can improve heart health, enhance mental performance, boost the immune system and the metabolism, and give ourselves more strength and energy to live our lives. Exercise and diet are two popular ways to improve circulation. However, 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 is then 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.

2) Reduces Muscle Inflammation – Have you ever participated in a high-intensity workout and felt sore for days afterwards? This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and, for many, it can be so painful that anti-inflammatory medication is required.

Any 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 proven effective 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.

3) It Can Facilitate Weight Loss – When practised routinely, cold water immersion has been shown to boost the metabolism increasing whole body metabolic rate by about 16 per cent.

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.

Of course, you shouldn’t go away thinking that cold showers are going to be the magic pill that will help you lose weight, but an increase in basal metabolic rate alongside other lifestyle interventions like diet and exercise may help with weight loss.

Max Lower - Cold Water Therapy Benefits
Cold Water Therapy has many health benefits, including boosting the immune system (Photo: Tom Joy)

4) Lymphatic Cleansing – The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that run throughout the body, helping take away waste, bacteria, and microbes from your cells. If you don’t exercise 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 therapy triggers 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, which in turn affects the immune system, which ultimately keeps you feeling happy and healthy.

5) It Can Create a Sense of Wellbeing – Feeling down? Try taking a cold shower. It may seem like a partial fix, but the benefits of cold water immersion actually are more profound than you think when it comes to boosting your mood. A 2007 research study found that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms, and if used on a routine basis, may be more beneficial than some prescription medications.

Cold water can trigger 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.

6) It Can Increase Mental Toughness – Forcing yourself to do something you really do not want to 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 regularly can have a knock-on effect into all areas of your life, and we only 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.

7) Optimizes Your Temperature Regulating System – If you are someone that always feels cold, cold showers can be a great way of resetting your body’s 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 dependent 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.

Cold Water Swimming
You don’t have to live near open water to reap the benefits of Cold Water Therapy (Photo: Tom Joy)

Where To Start?

You don’t have to live near open water or the sea to reap the many benefits of Cold Water Therapy. Cold showers and ice baths illicit many of the same benefits, here are my top tips:

• Start the shower hot and gradually turn it colder, once it’s cold stay in for a long as you feel comfortable.

• Cold water elicits a shock response – your breathing can become fast and irregular and your heart rate increases. You have to use your breath to overcome the shock response. Focus on taking big controlled breaths, with particular emphasis on the exhales. Try four second inhales and four second exhales.

• Stay relaxed – your body is going want to tense up. While you are focusing on breathing, try not to tense up.

• Don’t force it – trying to stay in for as long as physically possible can be dangerous. Instead, gradually increase the time you spend in the water.

• Be consistent! You don’t have to practice every day but regularly incorporating it into your week over a long period can have profound benefits for your mind and body.

Conclusion – Final Thoughts

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.

Fundamentally, getting outside of your physical and mental comfort zone using cold water therapy makes you a stronger person.

It has become a significant part of my life now, and it’s one of the many tools that I use to enhance communication between my mind and body.

• Max Lowery is a personal trainer and online health coach with a rapidly growing social media following. He is the founder of 2 Meal Day, the simplest, most effective method of Intermittent Fasting. You can find Max on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.