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Everything You Need To Know About The Cold Plunge

Everything You Need To Know About The Cold Plunge

What is a Cold Plunge?

A cold plunge, otherwise known as cold water immersion, is literally when you immerse yourself in extremely cold water. Some athletes do this with the intention of improving their recovery after a hard workout. Others have the goal of being less sore after going hard in the gym. Still other folks find it both relaxing and a challenge.
Spending between five and 15 minutes in 10 to 15-degree Celsius water may be the most effective way to practice cold water immersion or cold plunges. (1) The longer you stay immersed, the more relatively warm you might want the water to be. A cold plunge’s effectiveness also may depend on how long you wait until your next exercise bout.

Top 5 Cold Plunge Benefits

While the thought of deliberately exposing your entire body to freezing-cold temperatures might sound counter-intuitive, cold exposure (also known as cold therapy) has several scientifically-validated health benefits that include increasing your energy levels, boosting your immune system, and making you more resilient to cold temperatures and other stressors.

1.Increases Energy Levels

Exposing your body to cold temperatures for short periods causes changes in hormone secretion. For example, studies have shown that the secretion of norepinephrine increases during cold exposure; norepinephrine is one of the hormones responsible for regulating attention, focus and energy.
I’ve been experimenting with taking a three-minute cold plunge before intense CrossFit workouts. So far, the results have been promising, as I explain further down.

2. Speeds Up Physical Recovery

If you watch professional sports events or the annual CrossFit Games, you may have seen athletes take cold plunges after or between intense workouts. That’s in part because studies have shown that cold exposure can increase oxygenated blood flow, thus speeding up muscle recovery and reducing muscle soreness.
When you jump into ice-cold water, your central nervous system causes the blood vessels in your extremities to constrict to force the warm blood to your vital organs. As a result, circulation in your arms and legs gets temporarily restricted.

3.Boosts Your Mood

When I emerge from the cold water, I feel like I’ve won another battle against my mind. That feeling of having prevailed yet again sets the tone for the rest of my day and puts me in a better mood.
In addition to that psychological boost, there’s also a biological aspect to cold plunging’s mood-altering benefits: the process triggers the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine.
A study published in 2021 demonstrated that low levels of norepinephrine (NE) are associated with depression and other mental disorders, and concluded that “therapeutic agents which specifically increase NE activity are effective antidepressants, and there is evidence that those acting simultaneously on 5-HT and NE neurotransmission may have an antidepressant action superior to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).”

4. Improves Your Sleep

Many people have trouble falling asleep (or going back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night) as a result of elevated cortisol levels caused by stress.
By learning how to manage stress better (as discussed above), you also get better at relaxing. And being in a relaxed state of mind, especially before bedtime, increases your chances of falling asleep quickly and staying asleep.
Since leveraging cold plunges, I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in an important sleep metric that most people don’t pay much attention to: wake after sleep onset (WASO), which is the time I spend awake after falling asleep.
My WASO used to be in the 45 to 60-minute range, but it has decreased to between 18 and 35 minutes. As a result, my sleep has become much more efficient because I spend less time awake in bed.

5. Offers Neurocognitive Benefits

Observational studies on hibernating animals have shown that cold shock proteins, such as those triggered during a cold plunge, reinvigorate and replace synapses in the brain that were lost during extended periods of sleep (i.e., hibernation).
Scientists have discovered cold shock proteins which prevent cell death in mice that suffer from neurodegenerative diseases. Considering that the same cold shock proteins that protect the brains of mice also have neuroprotective properties in humans, researchers believe that they can be used to prevent or treat neurological diseases, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.