The Health Benefits of Cold Water Therapy

The Health Benefits of Cold Water Therapy

You’ve heard of cold plunges, but have you heard of cold water therapy (also known as cryotherapy)? Well, let’s just say there’s a reason why athletes brave the storm and plunge into ice baths after a big game. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.

What is cold water therapy?

Cold therapy is the simple practice of immersing yourself in cold water. Its origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece, where it was mostly used for relaxation and social purposes. Today, it’s renowned for its many health benefits, and while many people flock to expensive spas to get the full experience, you can also DIY at home, by swimming in an unheated pool or taking a cold shower.

 

The benefits of cold water therapy

You don't need to stay under cold water for long to reap the health benefits. A 2016 study in the Netherlands discovered that people who took cold showers for 30 to 90 seconds had 29 percent fewer sick days than those who didn’t¹.
By this logic, just a few seconds could be beneficial for your health.

Cold water therapy has been shown to:

  • Reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Reduce chronic pain in joints and muscle soreness
  • Have a positive effect on the immune system
  • Have a positive effect on mental health and mood.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Cold water therapy can reduce inflammation and swelling

Cold water therapy is recognised for its ability to reduce inflammation and swelling, but how does it do it? Well, cold temperatures cause vasoconstriction, which decreases blood flow to the affected area. This is a well-documented effect and is commonly used for athletes and in physical therapy.

Cold water therapy can help with chronic pain

For sore joints and chronic muscle soreness, cold water therapy can be a valuable supplement to other treatments, exercises or medications. It works by numbing the affected areas and reducing inflammation. There is substantial evidence supporting its effectiveness for these purposes. 

Cold water therapy can boost your immunity

Recent studies have unlocked exciting findings about how cold exposure affects our immune cells. One particular study in England found that taking daily cold showers increased the number of disease-fighting white blood cells². The research suggests that as the body warms itself during and after a cold shower, the metabolic rate increases, activating the immune system and leading to the release of more white blood cells. Another study confirmed that the immune system can be activated by non-infectious means, such as cold water immersion.³

Cold water therapy can help improve mental health

Evidence suggests that cold water therapy can help lift your mood and improve your general mental well-being. This is believed to be due to the cold shock response, which triggers a ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction, releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This leads to hyperventilation, an increased heart rate and constricted blood vessels. As our skin adapts to the cold, feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are released, we feel happier. Some studies and anecdotal reports also suggest improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms, though more research is needed in this area.


From helping with muscle soreness to boosting mood, there are many reasons why people would forego warm showers and take the plunge into the cold. Why not try it out?

Enjoyed this blog? Next, discover our guide to Mastering your daily meditation practice.