COLD WATER IMMERSION
I’m not sure if it’s excitement or nervous energy, but I’m joining the Boreas Transformation Experience at Odyssey Health Club & Spa this May, so thought I’d look into the benefits in a little greater detail.
Cold immersion therapy, also known as cold water immersion, involves immersing your body in cold water for a short period of time. This can take a number of forms from seaswimming, lake swimming, cold showers or cold waer plunges. There are a number of potential benefits to health. As with most things the responses are affected by gender, age, circadian rhythm (your daily sleep/wake cycle) and body size.
Metabolic energy production:
Cold water immersion (CWI), naturally results in heat loss, therefore a typical response is shivering, continous contraction of skeletal muscles. This activity is highly energy dependant and increases the metabolic rate in order to create heat. (20). It is thought that the shivering is more efficient than exercise after CWI at producing heat as the individual remains relatively immobile and thus doesn’t lose further heat (1).
Fat utilisation: Fat, and in particular, brown fat is capable of producing heat through a chemical process. The mitochondria within these cells are able to burn triglycerides and create heat supporting thermoregulation (2). This has been linked with increased fat loss, with a potential greater fat loss in men (3)
Reduced inflammation: CWI can help reduce inflammation in the body by constricting blood vessels and slowing down metabolic activity. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes or people with muscle soreness. Regular CWI has also been shown to cause adaptations to some stress markers giving some cardio protective effect (4) . There is also some evidence to suggest that CWI can improve one of the major antioxidants, glutathione, providing some cellular protection (5).
Improved muscle recovery: CWI can also help improve muscle recovery by reducing muscle fatigue and soreness after exercise (6) .
Increased circulation: When you immerse your body in cold water, your blood vessels constrict, which causes your blood to circulate more efficiently throughout your body. This can help increase your overall circulation and promote better blood flow to your organs and tissues.
Boosted immune system: Some studies suggest that cold immersion therapy may help boost your immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells in your body (7) , (8) promoting an anti inflammatory effect.
Improved mood: Whilst clinical studies are rare, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence to show that those partaking in CWI have a reduction in tension, fatigue, and an improvment in mood and memory (9).
There’s clearly a growing body of evidence that CWI can have multiple health benefits for a number of body systems, but it’s important to note that CWI may not be suitable for everyone, and it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before trying it, especially if you have any underlying health conditions. Additionally, it’s important to follow proper safety protocols when practicing cold immersion therapy to avoid hypothermia or other health risks.