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What Is Cold Water Therapy, and How Does It Help Our Health?

What Is Cold Water Therapy, and How Does It Help Our Health?

On social media, you may have seen people challenging themselves to sit in tubs filled with icy water. Although it doesn’t sound enjoyable, there is even a TikTok trend as a hangover cure where people put their faces into a bucket of ice-cold water. Let’s unwrap how it helps our health.

What is cold water therapy?

Cold water therapy, also known as cold hydrotherapy and cryotherapy, is a practice to treat health conditions or promote health benefits. The methods include an ice bath, a cold shower or outdoor swimming. 

What are its benefits?

- Boost immune system

Our body has leukocytes (also known as white blood cells), a type of blood cell to fight against infection and diseases. Taking a cold shower stimulates leukocytes, and switches our body into “survival mode”. This results in increased white blood cells that boost resistance against common illnesses. 

- Less muscle soreness

A study showed that cold water therapy reduces the symptom of delayed onset muscle soreness (muscle soreness after work-out).

A healer and wellness expert Antonia Harman says in the article “Cold water therapy is loved by Lizzo and Harry Styles - here's how it could boost your energy, fitness and more”- Marie Claire,

“Cold can help to numb the pain by constricting blood vessels, which in turn helps to reduce swelling. That’s why ice is a great remedy for anything from bee stings to sprained ankles.”

- Support mental health 

Taking a cold shower is a holistic method that is becoming popular to treat depression. It’s suggested to do up to three times a week. Cold water sends electrical signals to the brain to release increased endorphins (happiness hormones), leading to optimism and well-being. 

- Improve circulation

When you take a cold shower, your body tries hard to maintain the core temperature. If you do it regularly, it will improve circulation. It can help people with poor circulation, diabetes and high blood pressure.

- Lower inflammation

Susan Kwiecien, PhD, a clinical research manager at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, explains in Are Cold Showers Good for You? 5 Health Benefits to Know About, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING.

“Animal literature shows that if applied correctly, cryotherapy can decrease inflammation by reducing metabolic rate,” says Kwiecien. “Why you’d want to decrease inflammation is because after you’ve had an injury or after exercise, your body goes through an inflammatory process. Inflammation is both good and bad, and the point of cryotherapy is to reduce the amount of bad inflammation so that good inflammation can occur sooner.”

How should we practice cold water therapy?

When you practice this therapy, stepping into a tub filled with icy water sounds like a big challenge. Instead, you can start by taking a cold shower. 

This practice gives a shock to your body and it increases your heart rate. The safe way to start is to change the temperature slowly. For example, start with a warm shower, then every 60 seconds, turn the water to cold. This helps your body get used to the cooler temperature without giving your heart heavy stress.  

Many people assume you must set the shower temperature to extreme cold. A study shows the best temperature for this practice is 15°C. When you take a freezing cold shower, deep tissues start to shiver. The longer you do so, it may obstruct recovery. Set your shower to a mild cold temperature that feels chilly but won’t cause shivering. 

Summer is around the corner. Perhaps it’s the best time to practice cold water therapy.

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