What is a cold plunge and how do you do it?
Cold plunging is the practice of immersing oneself in cold or icy water for varying amounts of time. Cold plunges can be done in indoor or outdoor tubs or pools, as well as in specially designed tanks or barrels.
Most people use water temperatures ranging from 38 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but some studies suggest that a temperature range of 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal1,2. This range is intended to concentrate on muscle soreness recovery1,2. Cold therapy has long been used by athletes and others to treat muscle soreness after a workout, which may be where this trend began.
Cold water immersion has received the most attention in terms of post-exercise recovery. The majority of this research supports immersion immediately following an intense workout. In this way, we are attempting to treat potential exercise-induced inflammation.
Normally, one can expect some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs) after exercise, but cold water immersion may aid in muscle recovery and lead to less soreness3. Other reported benefits include a general reduction in pain perception and an improved sense of well-being.
People can use cold water plunges to treat both short and long-term pain because they may reduce pain. It is being used to treat inflammation without the use of medications. The cold water may also slow the rate at which your nerves send signals, potentially reducing pain perception2. When combined with contrast water baths, cold water may also aid in improved circulation. Increased oxygen levels in muscle tissue can result from improved circulation, making your muscles and tissues healthier4.
Finally, cold water may provide a quick mood boost due to increased dopamine concentrations found after immersion5. Dopamine boosts our mental acuity, alertness, and overall mood.
Although cold water plunges are popular, they are not appropriate for everyone. Please consult your doctor before beginning a cold water immersion plan at home. Turning your shower water to cold for 10-20 seconds at the end of your shower is a safer way to reap some of the benefits of cold plunges.
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