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10 Powerful Reasons to Embrace Cold Therapy

Cold therapy has become a hot topic as Polar plunges, ice baths, and cold rinses gain popularity. Exposure to cold temperatures, especially in the form of ice baths, has often been used to help sports teams increase athletic performance; however, there are a multitude of reasons why non-athletes are warming up to cold therapy as well.



Cold showers—the simplest and perhaps most accessible form of cold therapy—have proven to improve the mental well-being of those living with depression. This is because cold therapy affects the nervous system. The circulation of beta-endorphin levels increases when nerve endings found on skin are immersed in cold water, improving mood and well-being.



Cold exposure can also help regulate immunity. Sudden exposure to chilly temperatures—cold plunges, ice baths, cold-water swimming—causes short-term physiological stress, which readies the immune system to fight infections. It also helps the body increase tolerance to stress factors. Continuous exposure to cold therapy over time can boost your immune system and even lead to fewer sick days.



Ice compresses and cold-water immersion have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Inflammation occurs due to active muscle tissue damage during physical activity, which is why many sports professionals prefer cold therapy to reduce inflammation. If you’re new to cold therapy, don’t dive into hourlong ice-cold baths. Start with a five-minute lukewarm bath—and slowly work up to cooler temperatures over multiple sessions.



Exposure to extremely cold temperatures can also support sound sleep. This is especially true for those who engage in physical activity in the evening, followed by a form of cold therapy. The better quality of sleep might even result from the pain-relief and anti-inflammatory affects from the cold therapy. Research also suggests that lowering your core body temperature close to bedtime can help you fall asleep faster. 

Hot and cold

You may have heard that a hot bath before bedtime is best. Research shows that both warm- and cold-water immersion can benefit sleep—so opt for whichever you prefer.



Cold therapy increases the production of a neurotransmitter that impacts focus, attention, and mood, resulting in a feeling of calm and happiness. Recently, the Wim Hof Method gained popularity. This form of cold therapy utilizes breathing techniques along with cold showers and helps reduce perceived stress on the body and mind. It employs methods used in other wellness and relaxation practices such as yoga.



When immersed in cold water, the body tries to maintain its temperature. This results in increased blood flow throughout the body. A popular form of cold therapy is cold-water swimming, which has a positive impact on cardiovascular health. It also improves cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Safety first

Ready to take the (cold) plunge in a local lake or ocean? Be sure to follow safety precautions and always bring a buddy.



If you’ve ever lifted extra-heavy weights at the gym or run farther than usual, you likely know all about delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs). This soreness usually appears the day after exercise and can last for four days. Good news for DOMs sufferers—cold therapy can reduce the duration and severity of muscle soreness after exercise, helping you recover faster and perform better.



Immersed in cold water, the body starts to shiver and find ways to return to its core temperature. Shivering is the contraction of the body’s skeletal muscle mass. This increase in muscle activity elevates metabolic rate, which equals greater energy expenditure. This, in addition to a well-rounded diet, can aid in weight maintenance.



Some forms of cold therapy, such as whole-body cryotherapy (WBC), can help those dealing with chronically painful conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. WBC requires you to spend a few minutes in a cold, dry room with temperatures below -200 F, wearing little other than gloves, shoes, and face protection. As this may be unbearable or impossible for some, simpler solutions such as cold showers can also temporarily relieve localized pain. This is because cold can affect the speed at which pain travels through nerves.



Cold therapy is considered a trending topic, but people have been raving about its benefits for centuries. In 400 BC, Hippocrates, also known as the father of medicine, prescribed cold bathing as part of his treatment for most serious illnesses. Now, research on cold therapy and its impact on the immune, endocrine, vascular, and nervous systems continues. It can be as easy as jumping into a cold bath. Have you warmed up to the idea yet?