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The power of (cold) water
5 surprising health benefits of cold water immersion
Every morning, Tony Robbins starts his day off by plunging into a 57-degree Fahrenheit pool of water. It’s not exactly a gentle way to wake up, but that’s besides the point. Cold water immersion activates the body’s natural healing powers that can relieve the symptoms of many medical conditions and promote a sense of health and well-being. And when practiced on a regular basis, cold water immersion can even provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that enhance the overall quality of your life.
You might not have an immersion pool available to you, but you can reap the benefits of cold showers. Let’s take a closer look at the five important benefits of cold water immersion:
1. IMPROVES LYMPHATIC CIRCULATION
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that run throughout the body, helping take away waste, bacteria and microbes from your cells, essentially cleansing your body. Unlike your blood, which is constantly pumped through your body by the heart, your lymph fluid doesn’t have a central pump. Instead, your lymphatic system relies on muscle contraction to pump the lymph fluid through the vessels. So if you don’t exercise or your lymphatic system itself becomes slow or inefficient, the fluid stagnates and toxins build up, manifesting in colds, joint pain, infection and, in more serious instances, disease.
Cold water immersion causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste out of the area. This then triggers the immune system’s white blood cells to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid. In a way, it’s sort of a domino effect – the cold water affects the lymphatic system, which in turn affects the immune system, which ultimately keeps you feeling happy and healthy.
2. IMPROVES CARDIOVASULAR CIRCULATION
Cardiovascular circulation is rarely something that crosses our minds, but it happens to be one of the most critical components to our overall health and well-being. With poor cardiovascular circulation, not only is the blood flow compromised, the heart becomes stressed. And this can ultimately lead to health problems like fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, muscle cramping or even heart attack and stroke. With improved circulation, on the other hand, we can improve heart health, enhance mental performance, boost the immune system and the body’s metabolism, and simply give ourselves more strength and energy to live our lives the way we want.
So how do we get better cardiovascular circulation? Exercise and diet are two well-known factors. But cold water immersion, like taking a cold shower, can also stimulate blood flow. When you immerse your body in cold water, the blood rushes to surround your vital organs. Your heart then is forced to pump more efficiently, pushing blood through all your vessels and supplying every part of your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Do this on a routine basis and you can help promote healthy blood circulation and, ultimately, a healthy body.
3. REDUCES MUSCLE INFLAMMATION
Have you ever participated in a high intensity workout and woken up sore the next morning? How about trying a new type of physical activity only to find your muscles throbbing? Or even found that those strenuous household chores left you feeling uncomfortable for days afterwards? This physical discomfort is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and, for many, it can be so painful that they instantly reach for the anti-inflammatory meds to soothe their pain.
Any activity that pushes your muscles beyond the limits they are accustomed to can lead to microscopic tears in the fibers and inflammation in the tissue. But cold water immersion has been scientifically proven to help counteract these side effects.
Cold water lowers the damaged tissue’s temperature and constricts the blood vessels. This helps reduce any swelling and inflammation, and even numbs the nerve endings to bring immediate relief to any pain. This is why professional athletes soak in an ice bath following a strenuous workout. But you don’t have to be a serious athlete to reap the benefits of cold water immersion. By simply taking a quick post-workout cold shower you can help reduce soreness and inflammation from whatever physical activity you completed. And by incorporating cold water immersion into your daily routine, and reaping the benefits of cold showers, you may find that you don’t need to reach for the pills, because you’ve found an easy, natural way of expediting recovery and comfort.
4. BOOSTS HAPPINESS LEVELS
Feeling down? Try taking a cold shower. It may seem like a superficial fix, but the benefits of cold water immersion actually run deeper than you think when it comes to boosting your mood.
A 2007 research study found that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms, and if used on a routine basis, may be more beneficial than prescription medications in lifting moods. The reason for this, in scientific terms, is due to the stimulation of the dopaminergic transmission in the mesocorticolimbic and nigrostriatal pathway. Or, in layman’s speak, cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which make you feel happy. A separate study that analyzed the effects of regular winter swimming on the mood of swimmers showed that after four months of routine cold water swimming, the subjects felt more energetic, active and spritely than the control group.
So the next time you find yourself in a depressed state, consider the benefits of water, be it an ocean, a lake or a simple cold shower. You may just find that water can play a vital role in keeping your body and your mind happy.
5. AIDS WEIGHT LOSS EFFORTS
When practiced routinely, cold water immersion has been shown to boost the metabolism. Not only does cold water force our bodies to work harder to keep us warm, burning calories in the process and in the long run, boosting our metabolisms, it also has an unexpected impact on the type of fat we produce.
According to a 2009 study, researchers found that cold water can promote healthy brown fat, which is the good fat our bodies generate to keep us warm. Brown fat is activated when exposed to extreme fat, and helps eliminate white fat, which is the body fat that piles up around our waistlines and thighs when we consume too many calories.
While cold water immersion should not be considered a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise routine, it does make an excellent supplement.
THE BENEFITS OF A COLD SHOWER
Conditioning your brain and your body to accept, endure and embrace cold water immersion may be challenging, but the health benefits in both the short- and long-run are well worth it. You will be able to activate your body’s natural healing powers to properly support your physiological and mental state of being, and perhaps begin to feel healthier and happier.
Even if you begin with a quick, cold shower, lowering your skin temperature only briefly, the results can be dramatic. So consider the benefits of cold water immersion, whether it’s for an extra dose of energy during the day or long-lasting change for the future.
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