In some climates, ‘cold water therapy’ may sound like a death sentence, what with visions of freezing and hypothermia running through our heads, but in truth, there are very few more effective methods of natural healing. Cold water therapy encompasses everything from jumping into arctic water bodies like lakes and rivers, to taking a cold shower, to underwater massages; to good old ice packs… you get the picture!
If you live in a cold climate, at this point you are probably thinking, ‘Why, on God’s green earth, would I subject myself to torture?’ But if you live in a warm climate, a cold water bath probably sounds like Heaven on earth. Regardless, every time you avoid a dip in cold water, you cheat yourself out of the following:
1. Better, youthful skin:
Yes ladies, draw closer. Cold water actually constricts blood vessels thus causing your pores to appear smaller and in turn, your skin looks smoother, fresher and younger. Cold water all but closes up your pores thus lessening the infusion of dirt through your pores into your skin. Plus, studies have shown that constant hot water baths increase the appearance of wrinkles.
2. Great Blood Pressure:
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for raising blood pressure. It controls chemical messengers that affect the speed and force of the heartbeat and the size of blood vessels. Cold water causes the blood vessels to contract and the blood to rush towards the organs, thus sweeping out toxins in its wake and spreading nutrients around.
3. Better Circulation:
If your skin has ever been hit with a sudden dash of cold water, then you are probably familiar with the jolt you feel inside. That ‘jolt’ speeds up your blood flow which is as good as a quick short work-out. The increased flow flushes capillaries and carries oxygen faster to your brain!
4. Cure for Inflammation and Pain:
In the movies, whenever a guy gets a black-eye at the hands or in this case, fists of another, he grabs an ice-pack! Well, I assure you, it’s not something Hollywood dreamt up. Cold water is good for swollen or injured skin/body parts because it stimulates the release of endorphins which in turn fights off pain and gives you a sense of well-being. It sort of numbs the area and then heals away. Hydrotherapy is well recognized in the medical world, and people with weakened limbs are often advised to take up activities like swimming.
Cold water speeds up body metabolism. Dr Gary M. Levin posits that not only does it burn fat, it purges out chemicals and heavy metals too.
Male fertility can be improved by cold showers which are more beneficial than hot temperatures, which over a period of time are damaging to sperm. Dr Levin also suggests that bathing the testicles in cold water increases sperm generation.
7. Protect against diseases and injuries:
Cold water therapy can even help fight many diseases. Here’s how: it stimulates the release of substances like cytokine that in turn cause an increase in the body’s white blood cells. The new cells in turn fight disease and increase immunity to amazing levels! Furthermore, after exercise, nothing protects your muscles better than cold water.
8. Wake-up Call:
I saved this one for last because it is so obvious, it is almost a cliché. If you ever have a ‘sleepy’ morning when getting out of bed is a trial, and you don’t want to end up wasting the day away, then you need a cold shower. The shock effect will wake you up and indeed, it can be so invigorating that it actually lifts your mood.
One main reason that cold water therapy is thought to be so effective is because it increases your bodies resilience by exposing it to a form of managed stress. These type of stressors, also including intermittent fasting or high intensity exercise, are observed to result in increased vigor and vitality.
Please note that all these ‘benefits’ can best be enjoyed with a continued use of cold water because habituation is key! The ancient Greeks and Spartans were on to something there: they frequently had ice-cold baths for their health!
In truth, a cold shower or swim is not as scary as it may sound. The trick is to get the cold water on you in a rush and within a few seconds; your body produces its own natural heat thus making the cold bearable.