Whether it’s swimming in the sea, taking a cold shower or sitting in an ice bath, cold water is a powerful (if sometimes painful!) way to improve our health. Here’s some rewards you can expect for giving your body a chilly experience...
Although stress is generally considered negative, mild bodily stress activates the immune system, akin to giving it a practice to keep it on its toes. Research from the Czech Republic immersed willing participants in cold water three times a week for an hour with results showing significant increases in white blood cells, which are important for fighting infection.
2. Better stress handling
Stressful situations, such as immersing ourselves in cold water, increases our breathing and heart rates. If we experience the mild stress of cold water on a regular basis, our bodies begin to improve their ability to cope with other stresses as well. A report in the Journal of Physiology showed that regularly spending up to 5 minutes in cold water can halve the increase in heart and breathing rates, helping us to better handle physiological stresses.
4.Silky smooth skin. Do you remember that pot of Dead Sea Salt sat by the bath? Your mum wasn’t wrong. Salt in seawater is rich in minerals such as magnesium, salt and potassium chloride which can benefit many skin conditions. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, eczema can be improved by bathing in seawater. Studies have also shown magnesium helps skin retain moisture and boost its appearance, while salt and potassium chloride can help heal skin conditions such as dermatitis and psoriasis.
5.Alleviates allergies. You can’t help but get water up your nose as you splash through the waves. However, if you’re a hay fever sufferer this may be just what you need. According to Allergy UK, those who swim in the sea have healthier respiratory systems, as the salt ‘cleanses’ the body’s airways.
6.More calories burned. Plunging your body into cold temperatures means it has to work harder to maintain your core temperature to avoid hypothermia. Your body will fight extremely hard to do this, using up lots of energy and leaving you feeling slimmer and firmer!
8.A natural endorphin rush. People who swim in cold water claim to feel hugely ‘refreshed’, ‘invigorated’ and ‘on a high’ after their swim. This is because immersion in cold water causes large quantities of stress hormones and endorphins to flood the brain. The very fact of rising to the challenge of swimming in cold water is also a great mental boost, giving confidence and feelings of positivity. So although you may be gritting your teeth as you enter the water, expect to wear a big smile as you come out.
9.Soothes sore muscles. Plunging muscles into icy water after a hard workout is touted by some top athletes as being the best way to help muscles recover. Known as cryotherapy, the rather painful but brief submerging is used regularly by sportspeople and recommended by coaches. Paula Radcliffe and Andy Murray are among some of the elite athletes favouring ice baths to ease soreness and stiffness. Some rugby clubs even have a wheelie bin filled with ice water for the players to take turns using after a match. For those without such advanced facilities, a cold shower may be enough to reap the benefits.
10.Lowered inflammation. Exercise can inflame muscles and any form of cold water helps to reduce the inflammation and pain, equaling less tissue damage. You could also try contrast temperature water therapy by alternating hot and cold temperatures. You don’t have to run between snow and saunas like they do in Scandinavia. Do it at home by switching between hot and cold on the shower tap. Studies have shown this therapy reduced heart rates and lactic acid levels in athletes who tried this as opposed to a regular cool-down.
It’s important to remember that some professionals urge caution regarding cold water immersion. Plunging in quickly causes gasping and an increased heart rate and can cause a fatal shock response. Although cold water has proven benefits it isn’t advisable for everyone, particularly for anyone with heart issues or circulation problems like Raynaud’s. But if you’re generally fit and healthy, there’s no evidence that it can be anything but beneficial .