Sunday, May 26, 2024

Cold water bathing – Ready to take the plunge?

Cold-water bathing – submersion in ice cold water for its therapeutic benefits – has been a hot trend for a while now. ASHLEY MILN who is always feeling cold, tries to warm up to the idea of ice bathing to find out if it is all that it’s cracked up to be.
Chill out and embrace the ice life

Cultures around the world have used cold-water therapy for thousands of years, and it continues to be popular, with people touting its benefits. Some find the chilling effects of cold-water bathing calming and mood-lifting, with research findings showing that cold water immersion led to a 250 percent increase in dopamine, the body’s natural feel-good chemical.

Others embrace cold-water bathing for its wealth of potential physical benefits, including boosting the immune system, the metabolism, improving circulation, and reducing pain and inflammation. Ice baths are also commonly used by professional athletes as an aid to help with muscle recovery after intensive exercise.

What happens to your body during cold-water bathing?

When you take an icy dip, you reduce your body temperature, causing your blood vessels to constrict. When you get out the of cold water and your body temperature rises again, your blood vessels expand, pumping nutrient-rich oxygen back into your body’s tissues and muscles. When you’re in the water, the body also experiences hydrostatic pressure, which promotes blood flow to the heart, brain, and lungs.

Ready to take the plunge?

Whether plunging into an ice-cold tub, or swimming in cold rivers, lakes, streams, or the sea, there are lots of ways that one can indulge in a bit of cold-water therapy, making it readily accessible for anyone to enjoy.

If the thought sends shivers down your spine and you can’t quite bring yourself to soaking or swimming in icy water, you can dip a toe in by starting with a cold shower and working your way up to an ice bath when you are a bit more acclimatised to icy temperatures. It also helps to have a warm, fluffy towel to hand after your cold-water enjoyment, to help you feel toasty and relaxed.

Dangers of cold-water bathing and who should avoid it

Ice bathing is not without risks. Negative effects that can occur include hypothermia, ice burn, shock, and nerve damage. So, it is best to be mindful of any pre-existing health conditions that could be negatively affected by a quick change in body temperature. These include heart or lung conditions, Raynaud’s Syndrome, or cold uterica (experiencing hives from exposure to cold).

Pregnant women should also proceed with caution and consult their doctor if they are planning on cold-water bathing as drastic changes in body temperature can be potentially harmful to an unborn baby.

Whatever your reason for wanting to try a bit of ice-cold fun, do take any necessary precautions, ease into it, and start with small steps. Talk to your physician or healthcare provider, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.

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