Did you know that as bizarre as it may sound, exposing your body to a cold shower or ice bath for a short period of time can be beneficial for you?
Despite your initial thoughts, taking ice baths or cold showers on a regular basis can actually boost your health and wellbeing. Many athletes, runners, football players, rugby professionals, etc, know this and have been taking ice baths to help them improve their game and health...especially after a heavy training session to help reduce the recovery period.
If ice baths can boost the health and performance of professional athletes, then you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll provide an ordinary person with at least some health benefits...regardless if he lives a sedentary lifestyle or not.
A Brief History of Ice Baths
Ice baths are not a new trend or weird health programme being tried by celebrities. They have been around for thousands of years and have been used by ancient civilizations to address various health conditions. For instance, the Spartans (who seldom took baths) believed that warm water was for the weak, while cold water on the other hand, strengthened their bodies and made them more energetic and ready for battle.
Even the Greeks continued to immerse themselves in cold water even though they had already invented a system that produced hot water, which was used in their public baths. Today certain cultures around the world, such as the Russians, the Scandinavians, the Finns, and even the Japanese, still practice the act of taking ‘polar bear plunges’ for their associated health benefits.
The Benefits of Ice Baths/Cold Shower
May Help Fight Off Depression - Surprisingly, taking a cold shower or an ice bath can actually help relieve depression. Research conducted at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine shows that brief exposure to frigid temperatures, such as taking a cold shower, has the capacity to stimulate a certain area of the brain called the ‘blue spot’. This ‘blue spot’ is considered as the main producer of noradrenaline that can lessen or moderate the effects of depression.
May Help Support The Immune System - In a 1993 study conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institute located in the UK, people who exposed themselves to freezing temperatures by taking cold showers increased the number of white blood cells in their body. White blood cells are vital to the immune system since they fight the viruses, germs and pathogens that invade the body.
According to the researchers who conducted the study, when a person is exposed to cold temperatures, his/her Metabolism increases - a natural response of the body to counter the effects of frigid temperatures. When his/her metabolic rate increases, the body produces white blood cells and strengthens the immune system in the process.
May Help Enhance Blood Circulation - This is the reason many runners, bodybuilders, and other types of athletes are advised to take cold showers or ice baths after engaging in a strenuous workout or competition. This is because when your body is exposed to cold temperatures, it helps in decreasing tissue breakdown and swelling.
As a result inflammation is reduced and dangerous metabolic substances are flushed out of your system. In other words, taking an ice bath can lessen the amount of time needed for your body to recover and can reduce the occurrence of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness).
May Help Burn Fat - Perhaps, the most important benefit that a lot of overweight people may experience from taking an ice bath or a cold shower is weight loss. How is this possible? Simple. When your body is exposed to freezing temperatures, the brown fat in your body is activated.
Brown fat is a type of fat that generates heat. Instead of storing fat, brown fat helps in getting rid of it. It has been proven that brown fat can greatly help in weight loss and the best way to activate this fat is by exposing yourself to cold temperatures. However, you should also keep in mind that weight loss through ice therapy alone is not that effective.
Regular exercise and healthy meal options are still the two most effective natural ways of losing weight. On the other hand, you can optimize your weight loss efforts by adding ice baths or cold showers to your weight loss routine or lifestyle.
The Risks Involved with Ice Baths
Though ice baths are great for your body and can benefit your mental and emotional wellbeing, there are some risks or dangers associated with this ancient practice. Here are some of the health conditions that can result from improper, unmanaged or excessive exposure to cold temperatures.
Heart Attack - People with existing heart problems need to take extra caution if they plan on starting an ice therapy regimen. This is because cold temperatures can cause the heart to produce irregular heartbeats. This irregularity in heart rhythm can lead to a heart attack. In addition, icy waters can also cause the heart to develop certain complications. However, it should be noted that these risks are associated with people that have existing heart conditions. People who do not have existing heart problems can safely take and ‘enjoy’ ice baths or cold showers when done responsibly.
Hypothermia - Aside from heart attacks and heart complications, hypothermia is another risk associated with exposing your body to cold temperatures. This condition is really not a threat unless you spend a considerable amount of time soaked in cold water that is at freezing point. Generally speaking, people can survive cold temperatures for nearly 3 hours as long as the temperature is 10 degrees Celsius. However, the lower the temperature is, the higher the risk of developing hypothermia.
Some Tips On How Start Taking Ice Baths / Cold Showers
Because of the two abovementioned health risks, it is best that you consult a doctor first before you start any ice therapy regimen to determine that don’t have any other underlying health conditions. In addition, common sense should prevail. Always keep track of time and stay within your limits.
Beginners can start by soaking a towel in cold water and wrapping parts of their body with it, gradually increasing the wrapped area until you can get used to the cold. Over time you can slowly progress to immersing yourself fully into an ice bath or cold shower. Make sure that you do not expose yourself to cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time. Ten minutes, three times a week, is a good routine for not only beginners but even for some experienced ‘human polar bears’.
Finally, do not forget to replenish your body with the nutrients, amino acids and vitamins it needs to help your body not only cope with the cold temperatures but to support the systemic functions that could benefit from your ice bath sessions. Xtend-Life’s Total Balance Range and Omega 3 Fish Oil products are scientifically formulated to help your body get the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally every day. Maximize the benefits of taking ice baths or cold showers today by taking these supplements along with regular exercise and adopting a fun yet cautious approach to ice therapy.