Dive into our immersion guide and learn about why the Wim Hot method could be worth introducing into your day-to-day life.
Feeling low on energy, constantly tired or just a little down, generally? You'll likely have heard certain enthusiasts raving about cold water therapy by now. It may sound a little out there, but with search for cold water therapy on the rise since 2018, now's the time to read up on the myriad of supposed health benefits.
From life longevity to improved metabolism, cold water seems to cure it all. Some eczema sufferers have even found regular cold water immersion to help their flare-ups, now swearing by the ritual.
While we’re all for bending the rules from time to time (life’s too short to always play by the book), there are guidelines that you should try to stick to when it comes to embracing cold water —whether you’re drinking it, showering in it, or swimming in it. If you’re looking to boost your health physically or mentally , here’s what you should know.
Immersing yourself in cold water has some distinct health benefits, as a growing number of health influencers, celebrities, athletes, and trainers will happily confirm. Cold Water Immersion (CWI) is a form of cold water therapy, which improves the natural recovery process of the human body. A well-known type of Cold Water Immersion, is taking ice baths or cold showers. Cold Water Immersion is a great way to activate the body’s natural healing powers, and to make it able to relieve symptoms of various medical conditions.
What Are the Benefits of Cold Water Therapy?
Although more research needs to be done, many athletes and celebrities swear by cold water recovery and it is also believed to:
Boost the immune system
Boost energy levels
Improve metabolic function
Some enthusiasts go as far to call cold water therapy “the elixir of life”, but why?
"Top laboratories around the world are discovering being cold for a short period, using water or not, seems to extend your life expectancy. Being exposed to uncomfortably low temperatures, the key word being uncomfortably, seems to activate the longevity genes engaging our survival response, a key player in making sure our DNA is repaired before new cells are made", says Dr Barnish, head of genetics and nutrition at REVIV.
Who is Wim Hof ?
Although cold water therapy was widely practiced in ancient civilizations, it became less popular with the emergence of modern medicine. However, it has experienced a revival in recent years thanks to Wim Hof, a famous Dutch athlete with 21 Guinness World Records. Some of his features include running a barefoot half-marathon in the Arctic Circle and climbing Mount Everest and Kilimanjaro only wearing shorts. That’s why they call him the Iceman!
Recently, Wim Hof’s mysterious method of breath-work and cold immersion has faced the scrutiny of mainstream science with remarkable results. In this 2014 study by Radboud University, Wim and a selection of his practitioners were injected with a bacterial endotoxin. This group was successfully able to mobilize their immune response to defeat the pathogen. Since the study, many others have been performed around the globe to further understand the body’s natural healing powers through breath-work and cold immersion. Thank you, Wim, for bringing these benefits of cold water immersion to light!
What are types of cold water therapy?
– Ice baths. In the world of cold water therapy, this is the gold standard. This form of cold exposure involves sitting in an icy water container for a short period. The typical temperature range for an ice bath is between 2°C and 16°C.
– Cold plunge pools. These are typically a bit warmer than ice baths 10°C. However, unlike at-home ice baths, there is a water filtration system that moves around the water, making it feel colder. Cold plunge pools are found mainly at gyms and wellness spas
– Cold showers. This is the simplest and quickest way to immerse yourself in cold temperatures. Though they are not typically as cold as ice baths, they can be just as challenging. In an ice bath, the water is calm so you can settle in and focus on your breath. Cold showers, on the other hand, make it difficult to get into a “flow” state with water unevenly striking different parts of the body.
– Cryotherapy. This cold therapy form is relatively new and requires you to go to a special gym, spa, or wellness center. Whole body cryotherapy entails stepping into a chamber with liquid nitrogen, nitrous oxide, or argon gas at extremely cold temperatures (typically around -129°C). Just a couple of minutes is all it takes to retain the optimal health benefits.
– Outdoor swims in nature. Many people desire a more natural approach to wellness, and prefer to go swimming in rivers, lakes, and the ocean. This is a great solution for those who live in cold climates during the winter months.
How Does Cold Immersion Work?
The main idea behind cold therapy is as follows. By willingly exposing our bodies to the stress of the cold, we can regulate our nervous system and learn how to better manage stress.
The human body’s response to the cold is similar to how we respond to other stressors in life. This includes reactions such as an elevated heart rate, feelings of panic, body contractions, and shallow breathing. Intentionally subjecting ourselves to distress helps us cope with stress better, and that’s precisely what makes cold immersion so impactful.
What’s The Best Way To Start ?
1. Take it slow
Dr Barnish’s advice? Take it slow. “I personally took two weeks to build up to cold water, and sometimes I regress backwards, depending on my emotions or stress that day. Just build back up, taking it slowly again, a little longer each day.”
2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
If you want to reap the benefits of cold water therapy, you need to get used to being uncomfortable for short periods. The best way to first try cold water therapy is at home in your shower”. He advises following these steps.
After you have showered at your normal temperature, remain under the water
In slow intervals, turn the thermostat to make the water colder.
Each time the temperature drops you should feel uncomfortable , then comfortable again, relatively quickly.
The aim is to get to the temperature where the uncomfortable feeling lasts and doesn’t subside. This is when the benefits can occur.
Try and hold out for as long as you can and no longer than a few minutes on your first go, aiming for no more than 5 minutes, eventually. This may take a few showers before you can last that long.
3. Normalise it in your everyday
As above, cold water therapy doesn’t need to be about jumping into freezing cold tidal pools or go wild swimming: try adding a blast into your daily shower or face washing, instead.
Along with the physical health benefits of cold immersion, the physiological advantages include enhancing mental activity and releasing anti-stress hormones that can help you achieve inner peace and joy. Regular cold immersion, such as ice baths and cold showers, can improve our physical and mental well-being. So, instead of thinking about it as something reserved only for athletes and top performers, think of it as a natural remedy or medicine for people of all ages.