The Benefits of Cold Plunging

 
“Unless you are willing to experience new things, you’ll never realize your full potential.”  ―  Wim Hof

“Unless you are willing to experience new things, you’ll never realize your full potential.”
Wim Hof

 

You may or may not follow our Instagram page, but if you do, you’ve likely seen us plunging in our <40 degree swimming pool.  Shoot, we even did it in the snow storm last week!  Look, we aren’t crazy thrill junkies or idiots.  There is a purpose behind it; the thrill is just a lovely side effect.

Did you know that cold plunging has a number of benefits that your would likely aid in your well-being?  Whether you are jumping in your swimming pool, a nearby river, or actually hitting a cryotherapy session this winter, you could easily push yourself to a state of receiving all the love the cold has to offer.  Lowered stress, improved inflammation, and fat loss, just to name a few.  Sounds good to me!

We had 11 inches of snow fall in Eugene, turning our home into a Winter Wonderland. Our pool looked like a true polar plunge!

We had 11 inches of snow fall in Eugene, turning our home into a Winter Wonderland. Our pool looked like a true polar plunge!

Hear me out, there is a ton of scientific research and data supporting the benefits cold plunging has to offer.  Though the opportunity might not be sitting in your backyard like at our house, you can easily increase your cold exposure and save the means to have an actual cold plunge at your house, like a chest freezer full of epsom salt water. Yes, I have totally heard of people cold plunging in their freezer. It’s a thing.

I am going to do my best to explain my knowledge and benefits of the polar plunge without getting too “sciency” but you might have to bare with me.  I have done a lot of reading over the last few months on this subject.  Focused articles on Wim Hoff, whom I think is incredible human, to published reports from doctors like Dr. Rhonda Patrick.  What I have gathered is that while soaking in cold water is uncomfortable, it can change your life for the better.

Here is a list of potential benefits for you to check out, and research further if you’d like:

  1. Hormesis - beneficial chemical changes in your body resulting from low doses of acute stress that would be potentially toxic or fatal at high doses.  As you experience the cold, your body responds by releasing Norepinephrine & Adrenaline into your blood stream.  Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter.  It causes constriction of the blood vessels (preventing you from losing too much heat) and is involved in focus, attention, and mood.  When you cold plunge you can increase the amount of norepinephrine in your system 5 fold!

  2. Decrease in depression.  There has been plenty of research done on the neuroendocrine system, and the correlation between depression and lack of norepinephrine has been proven.   Decreased norepinephrine neurotransmission is also associated with decreased focus and cognitive ability, low energy, and unfavorable moods.  Sometimes depression is treated with norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.  When you do a cold plunge, your body naturally releases norepinephrine causing it to spike in your system, which could help alleviate the above symptoms over time.

  3. Reduced inflammation.  Chronic inflammation in your body is caused by long term exposure to toxins and pollutants, autoimmune disorders, or untreated injuries/infections.  When you cold plunge, the norepinephrine released into your bloodstream inhibit inflammation by decreasing molecules and proteins that cause inflammation in your body.  This spike of acute stress actually allows your body to reduce inflammation and relax the production of stress hormones. Thank you hormesis!

  4. Weight loss & Thermogenisis.  An increase of metabolism is one way the body responds cold plunging, in an attempt to produce heat and warm the body.  This is called Cold Thermogenisis.  Thermogenisis can take place either in your muscles, causing you to shiver, or in your fat cells which strangely does not make you shiver. This non-shivering Thermogenisis uncouples your mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouse) causing the fat cells to create more mitochondria.  This process converts your adipose tissue (fat) into brown adipose tissue because it has been metabolically ramped up with more mitochondria.  The more brown adipose tissue you have in your body, the more fat your body will burn.  

  5. Improved will power.  Let’s face it, jumping into a cold pool... IS FREAKING COLD!  It is uncomfortable and unpleasant, but you can do it.  Sometimes you have to tell your brain to quiet down so that you can take the plunge.  The key is to not think about it, and just do it.  The more you do uncomfortable, unpleasant, and challenging things the easier they become over time.  You will grow from the experience, and maybe you will be able to tackle another challenge in your life with greater resolve.  

You might be wondering how to get started.  I have a few recommendations that I got from Aubrey Marcus’ book Own The Day, Own Your Life.  First, I think it is very important to incorporate some deep breathing before you get your polar plunge on.  Whether you use the Wim Hof method or just some deep belly breathing, oxygenating your blood beforehand is huge.  Second, start slow and easy.  Don’t just go jumping into your local river.  Take a nice, hot, normal shower.  When you are finished washing yourself, crank down the temperature and let the cold water flow over your entire body.  Get your cold shower on for at least 3 minutes, and really let it flow onto ALL of your parts.  Don’t worry about the gasps and squeals, it’s part of the experience!  After you start getting used to doing this for a while, you are going to be ready to step up and do a full on cold plunge.  If you don’t have a cold body of water accessible, you can buy a few bags of ice from the market to add to your bathtub with cold water.  That should help bring the temp down significantly.  Or maybe you created your own cold plunge using a chest freezer like I mentioned above. We can chat more about that if you are interested! My third and final recommendation for you is to avoid trying this alone.  Shallow water blackout is possible, especially if you are utilizing deep breathing or the Wim Hof method of breathing.  You absolutely could drown in your own bathtub, so get a friend or your partner in on the fun!  Safety is cool.

Obviously, before you start any new exercise program on your journey, you should first consult your doctor. This is true for cold plunging and cryotherapy as well. This blog post is for informational purposes, and not medical advice, so use the information at your own risk.

So tell me, have you regularly cold plunged?  Maybe you have tried cryotherapy.  We would love to hear your experience, along with any tips or tricks you may have!  Leave a comment below and lets hear your thoughts.  Thanks for reading!

Ciao,

Jonah

Brit and Jonah during the B Zen Wellness Winter Wonderland Retreat near Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, CO.

Brit and Jonah during the B Zen Wellness Winter Wonderland Retreat near Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs, CO.


 
Check out some of the potential benefits from cold plunging, by Jonah from B Zen Wellness.