How much would we have to pay you to jump into a freezing cold lake or ice bath? Our guess is that for most of you, especially as now the weather has cooled off, the answer to that question is a hell of a lot.
The topic of this week’s blog post is Cold Water Therapy, a topic very close to some members of the CPRESS team’s hearts, and as you know we like to write about things that drive us but that provide you, dear reader, with some really useful information. We've spoken to health and wellness coach, Ryan Carter, about his personal experience with Cold Water Therapy (check out the Q&A at the end of this post), but first, let's dive into some of the science:
So, let’s get down to it. The first thing we want to talk about, as it was World Mental Health day last week, is how cold water immersion has the ability to boost our happiness. A 2007 research study found that cold water can help treat depression symptoms and if used regularly can be more beneficial than medications. The reason for this is that cold water triggers the production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, like dopamine, which make us feel happy and upbeat. Even if you’ve never done seriously cold water you must have at least once jumped into a pool or the ocean and been shocked by the cold? That feeling of exhilaration is ten times better with cold water immersion; if you thought exercise was good for producing endorphins, join us on one of our trips to Hampstead Ponds in the lead up to Christmas and feel the difference! And if you simply don’t think you can do it, see it as an exercise in improving mental toughness; challenging yourself to achieve a goal that you didn’t think you could reach.
It’s well known that you burn more calories when you’re cold because your body works harder to warm you up, and it’s one of the reasons that Cryotherapy has become so popular (and so expensive). Cold water immersion is free, you can do it at home in your shower if you like, and given that routine cold water immersion has been shown to boost the body’s overall metabolic rate by 16%, that’s a pretty useful contribution to your overall weight loss goals.
It also improves cardiovascular circulation. Sounds a bit dull to be honest, lots of things on the market claim to improve our circulation and as a consequence it’s a phrase that we tend to glaze over. However, improving circulation is one of the single most beneficial things you can do for your health. Imagine the cells inside your body housing the tiny mitochondria which convert nutrients and oxygen to ATP, for ease let’s just say ATP = energy. Increased circulation means increased blood flow to our cells, which in turn means better energy, better heart health, increased ability to concentrate and better immune function, amongst other things.
It improves lymphatic circulation too. We’ve extolled the benefits of dry brushing before for stimulating the lymphatic system, but cold water certainly has a place here too. They lymph system is a network of vessels that run throughout the body, helping take away waste, bacteria and microbes from your cells – essentially helping the body to detoxify. The more sedentary a life we lead the less the lymphatic system functions optimally as it’s regulated by muscle contraction. Cold water, however, causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste out of the area. The knock on effect from this is that the immune system’s white blood cells rise up to attack and destroy any unwanted substance contained within the lymph fluid.
If this isn't enough to convince you we've chatted to Ryan Carter, health and wellness coach, on his personal experience with Cold Water Therapy:
Why do you go out of your way to get cold?
I don’t particularly go out of my way to get cold, it’s just one of my day to day habits: whether this be not turning on the heating, removing a layer of clothing or by wearing sandals. I’ve got a bath and a shower so if I want to I can use those, or pop to Hampstead Ponds or the serpentine for a swim.
How do you incorporate cold water therapy into your everyday life?
Sometimes on my days off I go to a sauna and then do some cold water therapy afterwards. I don't do cold water therapy after training as it blunts the adaptative response.If I lived by the sea I’d be in the sea a LOT. Or just save yourself some money and turn the heating off!
Can you give us city dwellers that work long hours and stressful jobs any easy tips to start introducing some element of cold water therapy into our lives?
Just start small, don’t do anything crazy. Use your wash basin with cold ice water and dunk your head in for a few minutes, or incorporate it into your shower at the end, start with 30 seconds and build up from there.
What can you say to those people out there to whom the concept of diving into some frigid water is just unthinkably awful to cajole them into giving it a go?
It’s a matter of the way you think. You’ve got to embrace the uncomfortable. If you think about the best life experiences you’ve had they’ve probably come from a place or uncertainty or fear; you’ve got to break through some mental barriers and the euphoria you get from it is so worth it. It’s amazing.
So, who wants to come swimming?!
Find Ryan @livevitae on Instagram and via his website livevitae.com