Each year on New Year’s day, thousands of Canadians clad in nothing but bathings suits and take the “polar plunge” into the freezing English Bay to celebrate the start of a new year. In the Netherlands, more than 10,000 people do the same, collectively diving into the icy cold waters of Scheveningen in swimsuits, mittens, and hats. The United Kingdom has a similar tradition, the “Loony Dook” where over 1,000 participants parade through the streets of South Queensferry, Scotland dressed in crazy clothing before plunging into the freezing sea.
Places across the United States are even catching onto this tradition, with annual events held in states like Washington, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Minnesota. And while the thought of plunging into below-freezing water in the middle of winter might seem insane to you, you might think twice after learning just how good ice water is for your body. From gulping down glasses of the stuff to soaking in an ice water tub, experts have discovered that classic, cold H2O actually benefits the body much more than we ever thought.
As a health and fitness enthusiast, you’ll find these four cold water perks particularly interesting.
Do you feel like you suffer from a lack of hydration while exercising or that you tend to burn-out quicker than you used to? Switch to chilled water instead of warm or room-temperature water. Experts at Columbia University recommend cold water for athletes that exercise vigorously, as it helps lower your body’s core temperature to a normal range, which allows you to last longer and burn more calories during your workout. Studies have also shown that the human stomach absorbs drinking water that’s been cooled to approximately 41-degrees Fahrenheit much faster than warm or room temperature water, which ultimately helps fend off the side effects of dehydration.
Before exiting your nice, warm shower, crank the water temperature down to as cold as you can stand and try to stay in the cold water for two to three minutes. By subjecting yourself to ice cold water, your body will activate what’s called brown fat cells. Unlike white fat cells that are the predominate form of fat in the body, brown fat cells contain a large number of iron-containing mitochondria, which act as the cell’s heat-burning engine. Furthermore, the purpose of brown fat is to burn calories in the body in order to generate heat. Thus, when you withstand time in cold water, your brown fat cells will vamp up their heat-generating process and burn more calories.
Cold water stimulates your system in two different ways:
First, splashing cold water on your face makes you alert and helps wake you up. Underneath your skin lies thousands of tiny, sensitive sensors that, when exposed to cold water, send messages of shock to your brain. These shock signals tell your brain to pump up your adrenaline levels and the steroids aldosterone and cortisol, which gives you that jittery, heart-pumping feeling that get’s your body moving.
Second, drinking cold water boosts your immune system. Emerging, research-backed products like the ASEA Redox Supplement can bring your cellular communication to optimal levels which helps improve the health of every system in your body. Every cell in your body relies on something called redox signaling, a cellular messaging process that helps detect and correct problems within the cells. As you age and encounter more environmental toxins, cellular messages are sent less frequently and less efficiently, but with products like the Redox Supplement, these cells are stabilized and activated to improve the overall health of your body.
Whether you’re a current athlete, former athlete, or simply into fitness, you probably know first hand just how painful and annoying sore muscles can be. Within the last few years, however, experts have found that soaking in an ice bath after an intense workout can be incredibly effective. Chris Bleakley, PhD, and researcher at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland says that an ice bath can reduce sore muscles by about 20%, especially in cases of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. By soaking in an ice bath, you can fight the inflammation, pain, stiffness, swelling, and localized muscle soreness that often comes after a hard workout routine or difficult new exercise.
The benefits of cold water for the body are important to understand if you want to give yourself an extra edge in overall body health and wellness. I hope the next time you’re in the shower after a tough workout, you’ll give a cold rinse an extra thought or two!