For a few months now, after a soccer game or training session, I head to the garden, grab 5 bags of ice and dump them into a 100 gallon stock tank! I always keep this outside "bath" full, and the ice takes the water temperature down to around 50-55 °F.
This chilly, yet therapeutic exercise has many names: ice bathing, hydrotherapy, and cold water immersion. With everything, we look at with Truehope Canada, we always peek at what the science says, and for me, dunking my body into freezing water is no exception.
Here we will look into some ways in which ice bathing is healthy for you.
Immune Boosting - studies done in Europe showed athletes immersed themselves in 57 °F
(14 °C) water three times a week for six weeks, and showed an increase in white blood cells. These white blood cells were lymphocytes and monocytes. Lymphocytes are responsible for eliminating toxins, viruses and bacteria, while Monocytes assist in the consumption of pathogens.
When you dunk into cold water, your body responds quickly to try and warm you up. This engages your immune system to produce more while blood cells. Having more virus fighting immune cells will greatly reduce your chances of catching a cold.
Skin & Hair Health - hot water is dilating (opening) and cold water is constricting (closing),
meaning an ice bath will tighten cuticles and pores. It also helps your body squeeze out unwanted waste products in the skin.
Cold water tightens hair cuticles, so less dirt builds up, creating stronger hair.
Hormone Health - immersing in cold water boosts your bodies production of certain hormones. Sperm counts reduce when the testes are exposed to heat. Studies have shown that heat is an effective contraceptive.
Ice bathing is also an important adrenal and thyroid regulator.
Circulation - as discussed before, cold water constricts the body, and specifically blood vessels. When your vessels constrict, your blood flows are higher pressure, so circulation around the body improves.
Improving your blood circulation reduces your chances for hypertension and atherosclerosis.
Metabolism - Exposure to cold stimulates the production of brown fats, and these fats burn glucose faster, meaning more weight will be lost. An increased metabolism has many benefits, because it means your body will become better at its thousands of processes. Better growth, repair and weight loss.
Where to Begin?
The only place to start is in the shower! Have your normal shower, but at the end, for 60 - 90 seconds turn the water as cold as you can tolerate. Each day, you can increase the time you spend in the cold, as well as turn it colder. Ideally, you want to be exposed to ~55 °F for 3 minutes.
You can also buy an outside bathtub, like my 100 gallon stock tank. I have a floating thermometer, so I can keep an eye on the temperature, and add my ice accordingly. I usually empty it weekly to give it a clean.
If you want any advice or motivational tips, don't hesitate to email me.
Simon Brazier. Dip HN, NNCP