Since the Austrian Vincenz Priessnitz began administering ice baths in the first half of the 19thcentury, therapy through cold water has undoubtedly seen its greatest boom during the recent COVID times. Strengthening the immune system has become the number one priority, bringing a completely a new take on the fact that health is a privilege a person must earn.
You probably expect these enthusiasts to go swimming in a river in the middle of the winter and have the exact same expression like you have swimming in the sea in the summertime. Before a mere mortal becomes a hero, able to jump into a hole hacked through the ice, one must go through specific training and get his or her body accustomed to such drastic conditions. You probably just huddle into your down parka at the sight of it all and ask yourself a simple question: Why do it?
Cold therapy has been proven to increase our body’s resistance, making it much easier to deal with a whole range of illnesses.
One of the main positive effects of cold therapy is the increased excretion of endorphins – substances responsible for the feeling of happiness. Experts believe that regular cold showers lasting 5 minutes (2-3 times/week) significantly help improve one’s mental condition, even in patients diagnosed with depression or those suffering from anxiety attacks. Cold therapy can also help with sleeping disorders.
Cold water promotes blood circulation, leading to the better transport of nutrients to tissues. Aside from generally boosting your health, you can also look forward to improvements in skin conditions, including some types of eczema. Cold water also effectively suppresses unpleasant itching discomfort. Those of you fighting an uphill battle with oily hair may be pleasantly surprised after a few sessions of cold therapy. Cold water reduces the creation of sebum and stimulates hair follicles.
Although experts have been debating about this issue at great lengths, if you talk directly to athletes, you’ll find out that many of them successfully use short ice water cool downs after their workouts. Just like applying an ice pack to an injured body part, completely cooling the body down reduces swelling and inflammation. This, in turn, has a positive effect on shortening the regeneration period.
The body always needs time to adapt to new stimuli. Cold therapy is no exception – you’ll have to get your body accustomed to staying in cold water. This is especially important for individuals whose immune system is on the weaker side in the initial phase.
Nobody claims that you’ll enjoy a cold shower right at the beginning; you’ll most probably feel extremely uncomfortable. But the first positive effects will come soon. Usually, the feeling of victory over one’s own person – that you were able to step out of your comfort zone and face the darn ice challenge – helps a great deal.
Are you ready to try it out? Off to the shower!
Always finish the shower with cold water – that is one of the fundamental rules of cold therapy.
Gradually, try to prolong the time spent under the stream of cold water by 5-10 seconds each time.
Those of you who successfully pass the ice shower phase, i.e. you’re able to spend a minute under a steady stream of cold water, can start thinking about ice baths. The temperature of the water should be between 10-15°C and you shouldn’t stay immersed for a period longer than 10-15 minutes (even after undergoing the necessary training). In this case, it is also necessary to progress slowly and gently. It will take a while before you go for a swim in the lake in the middle of February.
Ground rules for safety
The question of whether cold baths help lose weight cannot be overlooked. And we have some good news – regular cold therapy sessions stimulate metabolic activity, allowing you to burn more calories! There are studies that have shown us that a cold shower helps you break down unwanted stored fat. The key to success is, naturally, regular practice and a suitable diet. Cold therapy can then surely lend a helping hand as well.
You may not be the next Wim Hof – the man who ran a barefoot marathon in the Arctic Circle wearing only shorts, and who swam a distance of 66 metres under the ice – but cold therapy is able to strengthen the body and mind without having to go to extremes. It holds true that everyone who is willing to leave their heated bubble will find their own way to enjoy cold water.
Author: Kateřina Gotzová
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