Taking the Plunge into Cold Water Has its Perks

For most people, jumping into an ice-cold lake may not sound like fun. But recent findings show it may be a great way to boost your mental health and cardiovascular system — and combat weight gain.

Most cold-water swimmers say they feel a sense of joy, and studies show that cold-water swimming activates endorphins, which the brain produces to make you feel good. Since cold-water swimming is also a form of exercise, and exercise has been proven to treat depression, it’s a win-win.

And along the same lines, because cold-water plunges place stress on the body physically and mentally, many studies have linked them to stress reduction. Most cold-water swimmers also report feeling calmer and more relaxed after a dip.

For your physical health, when your body is plunged into cold water, this forces blood to the surface and helps to warm your extremities, which in turn flushes your veins, arteries and capillaries.

Now folklore states that a cold shower/bath will repress sexual urges, but cold-water swimming increases libido. A dip in cold water boosts estrogen and testosterone production, increasing fertility and libido.

If you’re looking to lose weight, cold-water swimming makes the heart pump faster and the body work harder to keep everything warm, meaning more calories are burned.

Taking a dip in ice-cold water decreases “bad” body fat, one study found. It also boosts the development of “good” fat that helps burn calories and combat obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Additional benefits include lowering cholesterol, boosting the immune system, helping autoimmune inflammation, easing pain and speeding recovery from sports injuries.

If you’d like to give cold-water immersion a shot without jumping into a lake or pool, one simple way in the shower is to gradually lower the water temperature to cold for 30 to 60 seconds. You also can skip the warmup and go right for a cold shower.

Try an ice bath by adding ice to water until the temperature is 50 to 59 degrees F. Aim to stay in no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Of course, talk to your doctor first if you have a heart condition or other health concerns.