Take The Plunge: Why Cold Plunges Are Hot!

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Maybe you’ve seen it on TV or in a viral Tik Tok. Your favorite NFL star takes a dip in a huge vat of ice water after a big game, or perhaps your coworker takes cold, short baths a few times a week. It’s called a cold plunge and its gained a big following. Cold plunging is sweeping tubs, buckets and showers all over the country and people are touting the results. Here’s the tea on this cold-water immersion kick and why people are diving into the trend.

Acold plunge, known as cold therapy or cold-water immersion, is just what it sounds like, an ice bath, very cold bath or open water, around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in which you purposefully submerge yourself for a set period of time. Followers say “plunges” can stimulate hormesis, or positive stressors that cause the body to push beyond its comfort level and adapt both physically and mentally. These short bursts of cold may actually prompt a domino effect of the body’s cell recovery to improve overall health and make our bodies and minds more resilient to future stress. Intriguingly, it’s also one of the most researched areas of longevity happening right now.

Benefits of Plunging
When our body is shocked by an extreme temperature change, our brain gives a signal to the body that it’s under stress and needs to respond. When done safely, in a controlled environment for a set period of time, immersing the body in an ice bath can achieve possible benefits.

Ease Sore Muscles
The simplest idea behind cold plunging is to help the body feel good after a good workout. The cold water constricts the blood vessels, slows the blood flow and allows some soreness and swelling to dissipate.

Reduce Swelling
For some, the same constriction of blood vessels with cold water may also decrease inflammation that causes swelling in the body. For others, however, heat may be more beneficial. It can depend on the area where the inflammation originates and what method best works for that person in particular.

Lower Core Body Temperature
After a serious workout session, an icy dip is a quick way to cool down. When our body is hot from exercise, cold water brings our core temperature back down quickly.

Increase Immunity
Regular cold exposure has been shown to boost levels of certain immune cells such as white blood cells that play a role in fighting off infection and sometimes even cancer.

Decrease Stress
A recent study in Explore: Journal of Science & Healing notes plunging or cold-water baths can lower stress levels. The same study also suggests that participants who cold bathe feel a heightened sense of understanding their overall health versus those who do not plunge.

Elevate Mood
Another study published in Biology Journal found that when the body endures cold, it triggers neurotransmitters and brain chemicals such as dopamine that help regulate emotions and lower stress afterward, sometimes for hours. And it’s not proven, but many plungers say the cold burns calories.

Protect Your Plunge!
Most experts agree more research is needed to prove cold plunging is pertinent, safe and beneficial. As with any new body venture, talk to a doctor to weigh the possible benefits and dangers for you. People with heart conditions, older adults or those who take certain medications are at risk for medical issues. It’s best to be informed, knowing that everyone’s body response can be different.
Although research continues, cold plunging may be a powerful tool for improving physical and mental health. Before any cold dipping occurs, it’s a good idea to be prepared, know possible benefits and consider the risks. Maybe it’s worth it for you!

Sources: clevelandclinic.org, mindbodygreen.com and eatingwell.com.