Plunging Into Icy Waters Can Have These 5 Health Benefits

LeBron James swears by an ice bathtub for restoration after a giant sport. Chris Hemsworth reportedly finishes his exercises with a chilly plunge. Even David Beckham is a fan of immersing his body in frigid waters. In case you haven’t seen, tons of individuals are turning to cryotherapy, aka chilly remedy, within the pursuit of improved well being.

One instance of that is the ever-popular polar plunge. Also often called the polar bear plunge, it’s a gaggle exercise that entails leaping into an icy physique of water within the lifeless of winter. Why would anybody do that, you ask? Well, there are many legitimate causes.

The hashtag #polarplunge has already garnered 212 million views and counting. And whereas chilly water immersion could also be a considerably new wellness craze, the reality is that folks have been utilizing this therapeutic approach for hundreds of years. In reality, the Ancient Greeks used cold therapy for an a variety of benefits together with leisure and social interplay.

RELATED: What Is Cold Therapy? And What Are the Benefits?

Ready to make the leap? Whether you’re toying with the thought of signing up for a polar plunge, otherwise you’re simply inquisitive about what it could do on your well being, learn on for some professional recommendation and research-backed perception on this divisive pattern.


What Is a Polar Plunge?


A polar plunge, additionally generally known as a polar bear plunge, is a winter occasion throughout which a gaggle of members leap into an icy ocean, lake, or river. Often — however not all the time — it’s used as a fundraising alternative for charitable organizations.

Jeremie Walker, MD, a doctor at Opt Health, says he’s witnessed an uptick in questions from sufferers about chilly publicity.

“Polar plunges have gained popularity as people increasingly seek natural and holistic methods to enhance well-being,” says Heather Sandison, a naturopathic physician and founding father of Marama.


Possible Health Benefits of a Polar Plunge


There are restricted research on the advantages of polar plunges and chilly water immersion typically. However, listed below are some potential perks with promising analysis behind them.

Reduced Post-Workout Soreness

Studies have repeatedly proven that chilly water immersion can reduce soreness after exercise and accelerate muscle recovery.

Note, nonetheless, that analysis has steered that cryotherapy can solely have a helpful impact on irritation if the water temperature is lower than 59 degrees Fahrenheit — as is the case for a polar plunge.

Researchers consider that chilly water publicity has these results as a result of it decreases the circulating levels of creatine kinase, an enzyme related to muscle soreness.

Enhanced Immune Function

Could polar plunges result in fewer colds? Maybe.

“There is minimal evidence that cold plunging may activate the immune system to a slight extent, but the jury is still out on to what extent,” says Erin Stokes, a naturopathic physician and MegaFood Medical Director.

A 2016 research discovered that when individuals took a 30-90 second chilly rinse instantly following a sizzling bathe, they skilled a 29% reduction in sickness absences from work.

Of course, that’s solely what number of days they known as out sick from work, not the precise days they felt in poor health. Still, different analysis papers have proven that chilly water immersion might trigger an increase in white blood cell count — which then boosts your physique’s potential to battle off an infection.

Reduced Inflammation

It’s well-known that continual irritation is linked to a slew of diseases and conditions, from most cancers and coronary heart illness to diabetes, bronchial asthma, and Crohn’s illness.

Some research present that chilly water immersion can trigger the release of anti-inflammatory markers.

Researchers consider that it’s because publicity to chilly water causes an increased release of epinephrine (AKA adrenaline), which then dampens the physique’s inflammatory response whereas rising the manufacturing of pure chemical compounds which have an anti-inflammatory impact.

Improved Mood

“Some people also choose to cold plunge because they say they feel a tangible mood boost from the experience,” says Stokes.

Studies have proven that spending time in nature — and extra particularly, open-water swimming — can have profound effects on mood and mental health at massive. People have reported that open-water swimming can virtually be a meditative expertise, making them really feel extra in tune with their our bodies, and even providing a chance for mindfulness.

One motive why a polar plunge might have a optimistic impact in your temper is that chilly water immersion could cause a surge in dopamine, a chemical related to emotions of delight and satisfaction.

For this motive, Walker recommends doing a polar plunge very first thing within the morning to reap the potential mood-boosting advantages all day lengthy.

RELATED: What It’s Like to Try Whole-Body Cryotherapy

Better Stress Management

You’re most likely properly conscious of the toll that stress can take in your physique.

According to a 2018 study, chilly water immersion will increase blood circulation to your mind whereas slowing down your coronary heart price, thereby higher equipping your physique to deal with stress. Another 2021 study revealed that winter sea bathing is linked to decrease ranges of stress.

RELATED: Benefits of Ice Baths for Muscle Recovery

Here’s why: Cold water remedy can help to dampen your fight-of-flight system, often known as the stress response — coaching it to be much less activated over time.


Possible Risks of Polar Plunge


Because analysis reveals that chilly water immersion can put quite a strain on your heart — making it work more durable — it’s not recommended for anybody with a historical past of any coronary heart situations, or anybody with cardiac threat components comparable to diabetes, hypertension, or a household historical past of coronary heart illness.

According to Sandison, a polar plunge can also be not advisable for anybody with neuropathy (nerve harm).

Cold water pulls warmth away from the physique 25 times faster than chilly air. So, even in the event you don’t have these specific well being points, there are different potential dangers to find out about, in keeping with the National Weather Service. Those embody hypothermia and chilly shock — which might set off hyperventilation and seizures. These dangers enhance the longer you keep within the water. So one of the simplest ways to remain protected is to maintain your polar plunge tremendous brief — ideally, just 1-2 minutes max.

“Anyone who is considering cold plunging needs to talk with their doctor first,” says Stokes. “If your doctor does give you the green light for cold plunging, it’s important to start slowly and never attempt a polar plunge alone.”

Sandison recommends priming your physique for a polar plunge by regularly rising your chilly publicity. For instance, you would possibly attempt taking chilly showers or ice baths at dwelling within the weeks main as much as your polar plunge in order that it’s not as a lot of a shock to your system.

According to The American Heart Association, you’re nonetheless susceptible to hypothermia after you get out of the water — which is why it’s so essential to vary out of your moist garments and heat up with a beverage or close to a heater/fire as rapidly as doable.


Where to Do a Polar Plunge


Each yr, The Special Olympics hosts polar plunges all over the country. The better part is that by taking part in these occasions, you’re serving to to help the athletes.

You may also discover polar plunges at some wellness retreats. For instance, Wise & Well, a luxurious wellness retreat primarily based in Wisconsin, usually features a polar plunge within the winter retreat itinerary.

And in the event you’re nonetheless struggling to seek out group alternatives for an icy dip, attempt simply Googling “polar plunge near me” or “polar plunge in [your city or state].”

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