Cold showers and ice baths are trending on social media, but they're not new!
Cryotherapy dates back to ancient Egypt and is proven to:
- Promote healthy immune function
- Boost mood
- Increase energy
- Improve sleep
- Speed healing
- Ease muscle and joint pain
- Strengthen blood vessels
- Encourage good circulation
When you're in cold water, your blood vessels constrict or narrow. Blood is forced toward the organs, gathering extra oxygen and nutrients along the way.
As soon as you get out of the cold water, your blood vessels expand, pumping that highly oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood back to the tissues and removing waste products like lactic acid.
Dopamine (one of your brain's feel-good chemicals) is released, and inflammation is reduced in the body.
You may have seen videos of professional athletes and YouTubers literally chilling in vats of ice and think that's WAY too hardcore for you.
Rest assured, they didn't start there! Everyone eases into cold water therapy and builds a tolerance.
Even at the beginning, with small bursts of cold water, you can experience incredible health benefits!
A large Dutch study showed that workers who ended their morning shower with a 30-90 second blast of cold water took 29% fewer sick days than those who kept their shower warm.
START WITH THE SHOWER: At the end of your normal shower routine, switch to the coldest setting. Once the water is icy, count to 15. Then exit and dry off. Next shower, try a bit longer in the cold, working your way up to 90 seconds.
GRADUATE TO THE TUB: Once cold showers seem easy, you're ready for the next step. Fill your bathtub with the coldest tap water and check the temperature. You're aiming for 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit. If needed, add ice. Then slowly lower yourself into the water, up to your neck. Try to stay for 2 minutes. Breathe through it and try the coping tips below. Work your way up to a maximum of 10-15 minutes.
1. If you have a chronic condition with your heart, blood pressure, nerves (like neuropathy), or circulation, or are dealing with a new injury, please check with your health care provider before trying cold water therapy.
2. If you're attempting cold water immersion in a lake, stream, or ocean, wear shoes to protect your numb toes, and take along a buddy for safety and encouragement.
3. Cold water will take your breath away for a moment, and your heart will speed up. This is normal. Within a few seconds, your breathing and heart will regulate.
4. Distracting yourself will help! Talk to yourself or someone else nearby. Play music and sing. Take a deep breath in for four counts, hold for two counts, exhale for four counts. It'll be over before you know it!
5. Shaking or shivering means your time is up. Get out and let your body warm gradually for a few moments before you dry off. Try a few simple moves like marching in place or squats to get the blood pumping.
6. Build your tolerance over time, and don't overdo it. Cold water therapy 2-3 times a week for 10-15 minutes at a time is a great habit.
7. Be sure to follow your cold water session with a warm drink and a dose of your favorite immune support from Sweet's Elderberry!