Hopefully you’ve read our article on heat therapy (if not, have a read when you’ve finished this one!). Now we’re on to the other end of the heat spectrum with cold water immersion, or CWI. CWI has a slightly bigger job to do to sell itself, as most people are mildly aware that a sauna is good for you, but very few people understand why on earth people would want to immerse themselves in freezing cold water. There needs to be further research in this area, but what has emerged so far is promising. Let’s dive in to it…
We’ve all probably been told at some stage or another that if we go outside in the cold, we’ll “catch a chill” or we’ll get sick. Well, it turns out, the opposite might actually be true. Taking a walk in cold air, or having a cold shower or bath, stimulate the white blood cells in your body to whizz around more quickly. The white blood cells are the ones that help fight infection. Exposure to cold can also help boost your immune system to create more antibodies and T-cells.
On top of immune function, CWI is also used as a form of stress relief. The word ‘stress’ has negative connotations, but small amounts of stress can have a purpose. It helps us navigate danger, and can increase our alertness and productivity – but only if it’s in short bursts. Chronic, or long term stress is not good for our health. Cold water immersion has been shown to decrease stress and increase a positive mood. Many people report that repeated exposure to cold water has left them better equipped to deal with stressful events which inevitably pop up in the future, although more research is needed to find out exactly why that is.
Another benefit of cold water, is its ability to bring you in to the present moment. If you’ve ever stepped in to a cold shower or an ice bath, you will know it’s rather difficult to think about anything else. It can help to bring your mind inward, and initiate a feeling of focus.
Look out for Part 3 – Contrast Therapy coming next month.