Cold Water Therapy – the benefits of cold baths, showers and wild water dips!
Coldwater therapy is a wellness concept or natural medicine that has been around for years, with records listed as early as the Victorian era when cold water baths were frequently prescribed for all manner of complaints from bruises to hysteria.
At a time when we are becoming more and more aware of our personal wellness, both physically and mentally, cold water therapy is becoming increasingly popular due to many of the health benefits it has to offer.
The benefits of getting cold…
There are many benefits to immersing yourself in cold water, some of which include:
- Speeding up the metabolism
- Reducing inflammation, swelling and sore muscles – hence why a lot of athletes will use ice baths after training for faster recovery in between sessions.
- Improving the quality of sleep
- Eases symptoms of depression
- Enhancing focus
- Giving the immune system a boost too
More recently scientists have proclaimed that cold water therapy can also help reduce your chances of getting diseases such dementia or Alzheimer’s.
So worth a try right?!
A beginner’s guide to cold water therapy
1. Where to go
There are many options for places to go, starting in your home… you could take a cold shower, or bath (feel free to add ice as you wish). if you want to venture further afield you could try a local lake, a recommended inland ‘wild swim’ spot or if you are lucky enough to have the ocean at your disposal, why not head to the beach?!
2. What to wear
Getting cold is the whole point – so embrace it! Many just wear their usual swimmers, some might also put on wetsuit boots, gloves, and even a hat so long as you’re not planning on dunking your head under.
Others might wear a rash vest and leggings so they feel ‘less exposed’. Just remember you are submerging in water, so wearing full clothing is not advised. If you are not a strong swimmer do make sure you choose a safe spot and don’t go out of your depth.
Be sensible and be safe.
3. In the water
To begin with, keep your immersion quite short – it is recommended only 2 mins or so for complete beginners.
When you enter the water, control your breathing and don’t panic, try to stay calm and embrace the cold.
You can eventually build to staying submerged for 10 – 15 minutes or even take a short swim in colder waters. Just always make sure you follow the safety tips below and seek advice from your doctor
4. Tips for after
The body will continue to cool for around 30 minutes after your dip, so it is important to make sure you warm up properly and correctly after. You do not want to become hypothermic.
Straight after, make sure you remove all wet clothing and get dry quickly. If you have a little way to walk back to your changing facilities then dry off as much as you can, plus think about maybe wearing a dry robe and shoes. You will be moving so you should stay warm so long as you haven’t got too far to walk.
You will need to make sure you have warm dry clothes to put back on after, make sure you wear warm socks a hat and even gloves if needed.
It is also a good idea to have a hot drink to help the body warm-up from the inside out after too.
Do not jump in a hot shower afterwards.
What to expect
Coldwater therapy is something I have been trying since lockdown #3 – I was always interested in it before but never tried it!
For my first swim, I aimed to stay in for 2 full minutes – however, you can start building from 30secs + for total beginners – everyone is different.
The first minute is always the hardest so take your thoughts away from the cold, focus on your breath, breathing deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth (much like yoga). Your hands and feet will always be cold, but after a minute or so you should feel your core warm-up. It feels almost like a wave of warmth comes over you, very strange but nice!
After my first swim, I came out buzzing with energy – one of the crazy effects of cold water therapy is that it sends you on a natural high! Although I didn’t feel that cold after, I think I must have shivered for a good few hours – I guess this is just the body’s method of heating back up again! I also felt super tired by the evening and slept like a baby that night!
Overall, I would highly recommend it, and am currently seeking more local spots to wild dip so I can go more often!
- Talk to your doctor
- Always take a friend or observer with you
- Be sure to warm up when you get out
- Keep immersions brief
- Choose a safe place to submerge