The benefits of Cold Water Therapy
Cold water therapy – a super cool practice that has the potential to boost the immune system, improve circulation, kickstart a slugging metabolism, regulate mood and improve your resilience to stress is a hot topic at the moment. You literally can't move without some reference and debate about it - it was covered by Radio 4 Woman's Hour in late December 2021 It involves exposing yourself to water that’s about 12-15 degrees Celsius for a duration of 1-10 minutes in order to activate the body’s natural healing powers that can relieve symptoms of many medical conditions and promote a sense of wellbeing.
If you’re anything like me, you find the idea of plunging into an ice bath nothing short of terrifying. Let’s be real, staying cosy and warm feels good and being cold hurts and is super uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the discomfort is actually a key part of cold water’s ability to improve circulation, immunity and mental resilience.
So, if you’re keen to reap the benefits of cold-water therapy, you better get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
BENEFITS OF COLD WATER THERAPY
Improve circulation & reduce inflammation
Exposure to cold water stimulates blood flow, forcing the heart to pump more efficiently, carrying oxygenated blood to every part of your body. This improves circulation, boosts the immune system and lowers inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of 90% of all chronic disease, if you can learn to reduce inflammation in your body, you are on your way to a long, healthy and happy life.
Boost metabolism to facilitate weight loss
When practiced consistently, cold water therapy can boost your metabolism by forcing your body to work harder to keep you warm – burning calories in the process. Moreover, researchers have found that exposure to cold benefits weight loss by promoting healthy brown fat, which is the good fat our bodies generate to keep us warm.
Boost the immune system & lymphatic cleansing
Your lymphatic system - a network of vessels that run throughout the body, is responsible for flushing waste and bacteria from your cells. When the lymph fluid becomes stagnant and toxins build up, it manifests as colds, infections, and disease. Cold water therapy causes your lymph vessels to contract, pumping fluid throughout your body, flushing waste and triggering the immune system’s white blood cells to attack unwanted substances, leaving you more resilient to infection. A study found that having 30-second cold showers every morning for 60 days can decrease the number of sick days by 30%.
Regulate mood & improve mental resilience
The shock of cold water produces electric impulses that stimulate your brain into a state of clarity and alertness. It triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters and endorphins that make you feel happy. Additionally, the practice of willingly inducing a state of discomfort helps sharpen willpower and improves your ability to respond to stress. In fact, taking a cold shower only a few times per week has been found to reduce symptoms of depression in clinical trials.
HOW TO USE COLD WATER THERAPY
You don’t need a fancy ice bath, a frozen lake or a cryo chamber to reap the benefits of cold water therapy. The best way to try it out is at home in your shower. Turn your shower on from hot to cold for ten seconds each day and then build up to a minute. Each time the temperature drops you should feel uncomfortable, then comfortable again, relatively quickly. The goal is to get to the temperature where the uncomfortable feeling lasts and doesn’t subside. Allow the cold to be there, this is where the magic happens. Feel it, take it in and learn how to manage your breath to calm your mind. Before long, you’ll be up to 5 minutes before realising how cold the water is. Make it part of your every day and watch the benefits unfold in your life. If you do have underlying health conditions please check with your doctor before going ahead.
Focus on Your Breathing
To reap the benefits of cold water therapy, you have to learn how to calm your mind while putting your body under extreme stress. Focusing on your breath will lower your cortisol levels and help you to remain calm and avoid panic, which can be detrimental.
Start with the cold on your back, at the top of your spine and focus on breathing out for longer than you breathe in. So, exhale slowly for 5 seconds and inhale deeply for 1 second. I like to hum on the exhale and breathe through the mouth to maximise the oxygen and carbon dioxide gas exchange.
The benefits of breathwork and cold water on the nervous, circulatory & immune systems combine to foster a deeper mind-body connection, increase energy, lift the mood, balance hormones, reduce stress and improve all sorts of health issues.
If you’re unsure where to start and are looking for inspiration check out @breatheolution on Instagram. The founder, Kevin is on a mission to help people across the country through breathwork, cold exposure therapy and self-discovery.
We’ll be holding a WillPowders cold water event together with Breatholution this spring in the north of England. It’s going to be an absolutely transformative experience that’s not to miss.
Make sure you’re subscribed to the Will Powders newsletter (go to the bottom of the page!) and keep your eyes peeled on the @WillPowders Instagram for more details to follow.