Is Cold Plunge Really As Life-Changing As Everyone Says?

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Written By Paklay Zablay

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While similar, a cold plunge and cold therapy are not interchangeable. “A cold plunge is not the same as cold therapy,” says to board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Ariel Ostad, MD. “They are both forms of exposing your body to low temperatures, but in different ways. Cold therapy is considered cryotherapy, which involves using specialized chambers and exposing the body to extremely cold temperatures—colder than cold plunges. Typically, liquid nitrogen is used to create this cold temperature.”

Cold plunge benefits

Reduces inflammation

One of cold plunging’s most sought after benefits is its ability to reduce inflammation. “Cold plunges can cause vasoconstriction, the closing of blood vessels to limit inflammatory chemicals moving into the area,” Dr. Paulvin explains.

Kuhlmann says the same: “Cold exposure has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, and cold therapy may help decrease the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and alleviate symptoms related to inflammatory conditions.”

Reduces chronic pain

Dr. Paulvin adds that since cold plunges reduce inflammation, they can also help with chronic plain. “Lessening this inflammation can help alleviate chronic pain,” he says, and Putsov agrees.

“Using cold plunges regularly can be a game-changer if you struggle with chronic pain or inflammation. It’s like applying a natural, full-body anti-inflammatory,” Putsov adds. “It reduces the production of chemicals that promote inflammation and increases those that reduce it. This can be particularly beneficial for conditions like arthritis, helping to manage pain and improve joint mobility.”

Combats redness, swelling, and irritation in skin

Cold plunges’ anti-inflammatory properties also benefits the skin, according to Dr. Ostad, who notes that cold water plunges reduce inflammation in the skin. Decreased inflammation means redness, swelling, and inflammation in the skin over all.

Improves circulation

“Cold exposure stimulates blood circulation through vasoconstriction and vasodilation, promoting cardiovascular health,” Kuhlmann explains. As for why that’s a good thing?

“This can have a host of acute cardiorespiratory changes in health markers such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate,” according to Masi. “The thought is that these acute changes may create a more chronic effect potentially creating lasting improvements in circulatory health.”

Promotes a youthful complexion

While cold plunging cannot turn back the clock, it has anti-aging skin care benefits. More specifically, cold plunges reduce the breakdown of collagen production breakdown and aging in the skin, says Dr. Ostad.

Enhances physical performance

“Cold water immersion has shown positive impacts on muscular power,” says Kuhlmann. “This suggests that it aids muscle recovery, enhances performance, and promotes increased strength, especially following intense exercise.” Research also supports improvements in muscle power, he adds.

Improves your mood

According to Masi, cold plunging can also increase endorphin levels, leading to a feeling of well-being, and Putsov says the same. “You feel better [after a cold plunge] because the shock from the cold triggers a flood of endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals,” he explains.

Reduces stress

As a result of the aforementioned mood boost, cold plunges can also help reduce stress. “Cold exposure, especially when combined with techniques like the Wim Hof Breathing Method, may reduce stress,” Kuhlmann says. “Controlled breathing and mindfulness practices during cold exposure positively influence the autonomic nervous system.”

Improves sleep

Reducing stress has another major benefit, according to Dr. Paulvin. “Cold plunges also stimulate the body’s stress response and recovery process, which improves sleep,” he says.

Reduces muscle soreness.

“Doing a cold plunge after working out is great for muscle soreness,” says Daniel McKenna, a New York-based celebrity fitness trainer and founder of The Irish Yank Society. Putsov says the same: “When you take a cold plunge after a tough workout, it’s like giving your muscles a refreshing break. The cold water helps to soothe soreness, and you can feel refreshed in an hour, not in three to five days.”

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