Coldwater immersion, also called cold hydrotherapy became mainstream when celebs posted their pics taking ice baths as a post-workout recovery tool. But ice bath is way more than just a buzz and it’s been around for a while. Let’s explore.
When Wim Hof broke the internet with his documentary done by Vice climbing the Everest shirtless and wearing just shorts, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Wim Hof hasn’t earned his ‘Ice Man’ title by chance — he’s blown the mind of many people (especially scientists) by doing things we thought only could be done by a Marvel superhero, like resisting altitude sickness and completing a marathon in the Namib Desert with no water — just to name a few.
Wim isn’t a professional athlete and doesn’t have special powers. He wants to prove that everything he does (even if it may sound crazy to you) are accessible to anyone. Ice bath goes way beyond conquering the fear of cold water — it’s a physical, mental, spiritual, and communal experience.
When and How Should I Take Ice Baths?
Before you hop in an ice bath, there are a few things you should know. Florian Van Goethem, a breathwork and cold therapy facilitator recommends starting with cold showers and gradually increase exposure. For example, starting with 5 seconds and increasing to 1 minute overtime.
“Regarding the time I recommend to stay approx. 3 min for the first time. But the rule is: Feeling is understanding. You get out when it becomes too strong,” Florian says.
The Benefits of Ice Baths
If you run from cold water like a cat, you might reconsider after checking all these benefits. Many athletes, bodybuilders, and physical fitness enthusiasts support ice bath as an effective recovery tool but there’s way more to it.
It Boosts The Immune System
Exposing the body to low temperatures can increase the immune system response. One recent study shows that it activates the sympathetic nervous system by increasing the production of anti-inflammatory mediators within the body, thus lowering inflammation.
It Helps to Reduce Stress
At first, ice baths can be pretty painful, but with time your body gets used to the low temperatures and you can even relax. “The first 30-60 seconds are intense”, says the cold therapy expert, “and you need to overcome the shock. Then we get into a meditative state.” But to get to this stage, you need to work on some breath work before attempting to hop on an ice bath.
It Can Boost Your Mental Health
Immersion in cold water creates a certain level of resilience and boosts your mental health. Over time, you will build up a tolerance for the cold and this resilience and adaptation have reflections in your overall health and in life.