Coldwater therapy is one of the biggest trends of 2021, and also the easiest to partake in — let’s learn how it can boost physical and mental health.
Cold water therapy (CWT) takes many forms. Wellness expert Antonia Harman suggests “cold showers, dips in unheatedlidos, ice baths or even cold chambers”. The easiest common example of cold water therapy in Australia is seeing footballers at the beach, running into the water after training.
Soaking in cold water is scientifically proven to lessen muscle soreness by causing blood vessels to constrict, which in turn restricts blood flow to the area, reducing swelling and inflammation. It’s particularly effective combined with active recovery techniques such as stretching, low-intensity cardio, yoga, and foam rolling myofascial release.
Direct exposure to cold water triggers a release of the anti-inflammatory hormone and neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which has a raft of beneficial effects. It increases memory, focus and task-based performance, helps the body respond to oxidative stress, and influences the sleep-wake cycle.
For better sleep, a cold shower in the hour before bed will lower your core temperature, mimicking and enhancing the natural drop in body temperature that occurs as bedtime approaches.
Other reported benefits of cold water therapy include decreased anxious and depressive symptoms, improved circulation, boosted metabolism, and, most interestingly, increased willpower — it takes willpower to turn the shower taps to Cold or jump into an icy plunge pool, after all!
But how cold is, well, cold? Dr Michael Barnish, head of Nutrition for REVIV reckons you’re good if you go for anything below 15 degrees Celsius, stating that “Many seasoned cold water users brave just a few degrees Celsius,” but that users can see benefits up to as warm as 14 degrees Celsius.
So try finishing your morning wash with a 30 second blast of cold water, or winding down for the night with a cold shower.