5 Benefits of Cold Plunges for Fitness and Performance

4 min read  •  
Home » Blog » 5 Benefits of Cold Plunges for Fitness and Performance
Cryomend Staff

5 Benefits of Cold Plunges for Fitness and Performance

For years, polar bear dips have marked the beginning of a new year. You may have seen people running into the frigid waters on your local news. Or perhaps you’ve even participated in one of these events. But cold water immersion goes beyond a fresh start. 

In recent years, cold exposure has become increasingly popular—particularly thanks to Wim Hof, also known as “The Iceman,” who prompted further scientific research into this technique. 

Today, many athletes use cold plunging to improve their recovery and performance. And yes, the average gym-goer or health enthusiast can benefit from it! So, what should you know about cold water therapy? What are the benefits of cold plunging? In this article, we explore how it works and the many cold plunge benefits.

What is a Cold Plunge?

A cold plunge—also known as cold water immersion—is the practice of immersing oneself in cold water for a short period of time, usually about two to three minutes. Typically, the water temperature is between 50-59°F (10-15°C), meaning, yes, it’s cold. 

However, the way you immerse yourself in cold water can vary. Some opt for a bath or shower, while others may use a natural body of water like a lake or ocean. So, how does it work? 

When the body is exposed to cold water, it experiences a cold shock. A cold shock occurs when the blood vessels constrict, leading to changes in hormones, metabolic activity, blood flow, and even the immune system. Cold water also stimulates the release of endorphins, which are associated with reduced pain and an improved mood. These internal changes lead to various benefits associated with the ice plunge.

5 Cold Plunge Benefits

If there weren’t any potential health benefits of a cold plunge, simply put, people wouldn’t do them. So, here are the top benefits of a cold plunge and why many athletes and health enthusiasts rave about these icy dips.

Decreases Muscle Soreness

Any regular exerciser is familiar with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). You might feel great after your workout, but within a day or two, you can barely walk. DOMS is largely thought to be caused by microscopic tears in the muscle leading to inflammation—not lactic acid like many people believe. 

However, research shows that cold water immersion may help ease or prevent DOMS altogether. Researchers further suggest that cold plunges can reduce the biomarkers of muscle damage, such as Creatine Kinase (CK). This can be particularly beneficial for those trying new workouts or athletes who don’t want to take time off due to sore muscles.

Enhances Immune System Function

A 2016 study in the Netherlands concluded that cold plunging reduced the number of sick days individuals took at work. In fact, those who took cold showers had 29% fewer sick days compared to those who didn’t. When combined with exercise, this statistic further improved. 

But there’s more. 

In another study, Wim Hof trained other individuals on his cold water immersion technique. When injected with an endotoxin, these individuals experienced fewer symptoms than the control group. In other words, regular ice baths might just mean you experience fewer bouts of illness.

Improves Exercise Recovery & Performance

On top of reduced muscle soreness, cold therapy can also enhance the overall recovery process post-exercise. Many report reduced fatigue when incorporating cold exposure into their recovery routines.

Research further shows how cold plunging has a positive influence on muscle power—indicating its potential impact on performance. However, it’s worth noting that there weren’t significant increases in muscle strength or endurance when compared to the control group.

Enhances Metabolic Function

One of the most talked-about benefits of a cold plunge is its ability to improve metabolism. In particular, cold therapy increases brown fat in the body. While fat is often deemed a “bad” thing, brown fat actually helps burn calories and regulate body temperature. This means brown fat may help you lose weight. 

Yet, it’s important to remember that sustainable weight loss requires a holistic approach that includes dietary and lifestyle changes. Merely immersing yourself in icy water is unlikely to get you the results you want, but it can contribute to your efforts.

Other studies also demonstrate the potential of cold water exposure in regulating blood sugar levels, which could improve insulin sensitivity and help those with diabetes. This can also positively impact metabolic function. However, more research is needed to clarify these benefits further.

Improves Stress and Resiliency

Cold baths can positively impact mental well-being, helping reduce anxiety and stress. This is thought to occur due to the increase in endorphins and potentially a decrease in stress hormones. In turn, this may improve overall resiliency, helping you overcome life hurdles that much easier. It may also help deter any pre-competition nerves.

Additionally, an ice bath can also act as a place of meditation, where you focus on each inhale and exhale and let go of the day’s worries. Many people say they even sleep better thanks to their daily dip.

When & How Long to Cold Plunge

You can gain the benefits of a cold plunge everyday. In other words, you can perform an ice bath daily. In fact, many athletes choose to start their day with a cold plunge or contrast therapy, where they alternate between a cold plunge and a sauna. This can set the stage for success and start your day on the right foot.

So, how long should you stay in? Well, you can gain these benefits in a matter of minutes. Yet, if you’re just starting out, it might be best to aim for 30 seconds and gradually increase your duration to two to three minutes.

Interested in experiencing the benefits of cold water plunging in Toronto? Cryomend has everything you need to recover better and faster. Book your session today and start putting your recovery first so you can continue to make progress toward your goals.

Share article: