I've ALWAYS loved cold water and how it makes me feel. After a cold swim in the ocean, I FEEL ALIVE! But hang on...... How can swimming (or showering) in cold water boost my immune System?
Stress in small amounts is a positive thing! Take exercise for example; a small amount of stress is applied to the muscle, signalling for adaptation to strengthen and grow the muscles. Cold water therapy works in a similar manner.
So.... What are the benefits:
Improved Sports Recovery and Performance
This is a method that elite athletes have been using for years. You will often see groups of sports team in the ocean, baths or pool after a big game to enhance their recovery.
Cold water therapy helps the muscles to recovery more efficiently by helping to reduce inflammation and by improving the circulation to the muscle.
If your muscles are able to recover better, this will allow for greater performance in training and hence greater results!
90% of disease states that we are not born with, can be traced back to some kind of inflammatory response within the body. This may include depression and anxiety.
Just like applying ice to an injury to reduce inflammation and pain, cold water therapy works in the same manner, but on a larger scale.
If your body is constantly needing to focus on 'putting out fires' in the body, it reduces its ability to function in other areas efficiently. An example may be, if you have inflammation in your gut, it will affect nutrient absorption, leading to nutrient deficiencies; which in turn will reduce the bodies' ability to function at its peak. This will lead to poor energy, poor mood and poor performance!
Enhanced Immune Regulation
Our immune system does an AMAZING job and has LOTS to do. For a healthy immune system, it is really important that our immune system can turn on when it needs to, but also turn down or off when it has finished its job. A strong example of this is in Autoimmune Conditions; whereby the immune system becomes dis-regulated and angry. It begins to mistake 'friend' for 'foe' and essentially begins firing ammunition at an innocent part of the body, ultimately attacking itself. This obviously creates alot of tissue damage, inflammation and strongly affects the health of your body.
Exposure to cold water, is able to reduce inflammation in the body and in turn signals the immune system (the soldier's of the body), that the war is over, they can retreat and relax. This is called immune regulation.
Cold water is effective as a weight loss tool as it creates an activation and growth of Brown Fat. Now..... Is fat a good thing? Brown Fat - YUP!
White fat, or adipose tissue is the standard fat that no doubt you have heard of. The true role of this fat is to insulate your body from heat and cold and protect our inner organs. In humans, too much white fat is of course not healthy... But what is the brown stuff?
Brown fat, or adipose tissue, stores energy in smaller spaces than white fat. Its packed full of energy producing mitochondria. Brown fat is predominately found in babies and people that live in cold environments,it keeps the body warm without having to shiver. When brown fat is activated, it creates heats within the body without the body shivering and is very effective at keeping us warm. The benefit to having more brown fat than white fat, is that brown fat uses energy in the form of calories to burn; meaning this fat, can actually HELP you loose weight. Cool hey!
How do I make this happen?
If your super hard core, you can begin practicing with Ice Baths. This has shown ENORMOUS benefits with only 2 minutes of Ice Bathing per week. If you would like to know more about this check out: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/
If however, sitting in an ice bath is not your thing, you can still gain benefits AND from the comfort of your home!!
A simple and effective way to activate these pathways is by adding cold showers or even winter dips to your life. Research has shown the greatest benefits occur when the temperature is bellow 14 degrees, however you feel changes in temperatures above.
Shower Hokey Pokey
If this is a completely foreign topic - its ok to approach this and play with it slowly.
Begin with having a warm shower to warm your core temperature. After a few minutes, turn off the hot water and increase the cold. This is where we start the cold water 'hokey pokey'. Remember the song? You put left hand in, you take left hand out, etc etc. Begin with dipping your arms into the water, then legs, then your behind, chest and lastly head. Stay with it for as long as you can tolerate before turning off the shower.
I actually find its MUCH EASIER to get out of the shower in the cold weather after a cold water rinse! Its refreshing, invigorating and incredibly powerful.
Yup, sounds a little bit mental right... However, cold water therapy not only is beneficial for our body, but also our mind! There is alot of research around anxiety and depression actually being an inflammatory response in the brain.... Well, what if we could reduce the inflammation? Would that change how we think?
Cold water also challenges you mentally. It helps you stay in a situation that isn't comfortable. To get to a place where the uncomfortable is actually ENJOYABLE. Great analogy and tool for life isn't it?
Who's up for it?