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Top 7 Cold Plunge Benefits for Health

Social media aside, cold plunging has been practiced for years; since ancient times, people have been dipping into frigid water to help relieve high temperatures and for physiological benefits. Scientific research and ongoing studies have discovered how much more we can experience and benefit from cold plunge therapy.

Cold plunging or cold-water immersion requires one to voluntarily get into freezing water at 50-59 degrees fahrenheit for 5-10 minutes. It is at this temperature and duration that one can experience the benefits that come from cold exposure.

One thing that stays true about cold water therapy is the cold shock you experience every time you get into the icy waters. The key lies in embracing the cold; after a few cold water plunges, the process becomes bearable, and you experience significant health benefits. So, what are the benefits of the cold plunge that everyone keeps talking about? 

Let’s get into the article to learn more about them.

Top 7 Benefits of Cold Plunges

Benefit #1: Enhanced Recovery Post-Workout

Reduction in Muscle Inflammation

    After intense activities, athletes and gym enthusiasts opt for cold plunging to reduce muscle inflammation. Routines to speed up recovery might vary, but most athletes spread out and schedule their cold immersion sessions right after taking part in high-impact or intense activities. This means these sessions might be spread out across different days of the week and will not take place every day; they will only occur when needed. 

    An athlete can plunge for 5-10 minutes in the ice water or longer, depending on one’s threshold and body limit. (1)

    Decrease in Muscle Soreness

      Other than reducing inflammation (2), cold plunging significantly impacts decreasing muscle soreness. As opposed to someone plunging to feel rejuvenated and exhilarated, most athletes plunge for recovery purposes. To get the most out of cold water immersion, it should ideally happen after the workout and not for less than 5 minutes (if you can push through for 10-20 minutes, even better). 

      The best and ideal temperature to plunge in for post-workout recovery is 50 – 60 degrees F, but if your body’s limit can withstand slightly lower temperatures (30 degrees F), go for it!  

      Benefit #2: Boosted Immune System      

      Strengthening Your Immune System

        Researchers have conducted studies [3] [4] to help determine and back up claims that the immune system of individuals participating in cold plunging is better and improved due to  increased white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells. They believe regular cold water exposure makes people immune to ailments like the common cold and other viral diseases because their bodies have adapted to much cooler temperatures.

        Prevention of Common Illness

          Findings from research studies focused on the effects of cold water immersion on common illnesses suggest that individuals exposed to cold temperatures seem to build stamina and resistance to these ailments. Individuals who were part of a particular study [4] that involved them taking cold showers proved that they had fewer sick days than those who took warm showers. 

          Benefit #3: Improved Blood Circulation      

          Enhanced Blood Flow

            After you get into a cold plunge, the low temperatures cause your blood vessels to constrict (become narrow) [5]; when this happens, the blood flow is slowed down, which is excellent as it helps reduce inflammation, soreness or swelling.

            Once you step out of the plunge, your blood vessels dilate, increasing and improving blood flow throughout your entire body.

            Benefits of Cardiovascular Health

              An improved and enhanced blood flow is bound to affect your cardiovascular health positively reducing certain heart conditions. Some studies suggest that individuals who have plunged for a long time and built endurance for the cold temperatures have somehow made their cardiovascular risk resistant to specific ailments and heart diseases. 

              A study [6] a few years ago discusses how cold water immersion increases insulin sensitivity, contributing to a healthy cardiovascular system.

              Benefit #4: Mental Health Benefits and Well-being  

              Stress Reduction

                Life can push your buttons; stress has become a part of our everyday lives. Even centenarians believe that some stress is good for you so long as you find a way to manage it. Compared to a cold shower, cold water immersion elevates your experience and benefits. Once you take the plunge, your mood becomes uplifted due to a release of endorphins (feel-good hormones). You feel less pressure, and stress levels will also decrease. 

                Mood Elevation

                  Ice baths can boost your mood, leaving you feeling rejuvenated, re-energized, and exhilarated. Such a benefit is possible because of your ability to withstand the cold water temperatures during the immersion period, which should last a few minutes.

                  To maximize your experience, you can incorporate mindfulness and ground yourself during the plunge. This can be achieved through guided intentional breathing [7] that will help you stay present, focused, and calm despite the cold that affects your body temperature.

                  Below are steps you can follow to help you breathe well during a cold plunge:

                  • Step 1: Take a deep breath through the nose for four seconds
                  • Step 2: Hold it for four seconds
                  • Step 3: Exhale after four seconds
                  • Step 4: Hold it for four seconds, then start again from step one, going through the other steps during the plunge.


                  Benefit #5: Weight Management   

                  Stimulation of Brown Fat

                  Where is the connection between cold water immersion and weight loss? When your body is exposed to cold, it activates brown fat [8], which also triggers and increases your metabolism rate. Also known as brown adipose tissue, it breaks down blood glucose and burns calories to warm your body and counteract cold temperatures.

                  Potential For Weight Loss

                  Scientists and researchers have found evidence linking cold exposure to weight loss through an activated metabolism. These studies [9] [10], through scientific data and information, suggest that when test subjects are exposed to cooler temperatures, their bodies react by activating brown fat connected to an elevated metabolic rate. 

                  Benefit #6: Skin and Hair Health

                  Improved Skin Tone

                    Your blood vessels constrict as you plunge, resulting in tighter skin tone. The constriction helps with any soreness and inflammation you might be experiencing. The cold water also soothes your skin and helps tighten any pores you might have, making your skin appear smoother.

                    Healthier Hair

                      Hot water is most likely to strip away moisture from your hair and weaken it; washing it with cold water is better as the cool temperature seals and strengthens your hair cuticles, helping retain moisture.

                      With all the positive effect and benefits of cold plunging on your skin and hair, it only makes sense to incorporate it into your daily routine. Here’s how you can do it:

                      • Through ice water dipping, put your face in a basin filled with water and ice cubes for a few seconds. You can also opt for ice massage by wrapping ice cubes in a towel/soft cloth and softly gliding them over your skin
                      • Take the whole process slowly and gradually move on to colder water once you become acclimatized to cooler temperatures. You can start by splashing your face with regular cold water immediately after you wake up to rejuvenate and refresh your skin. These cold plunge routines should be followed up by your day-to-day skin routine and personal care products

                      Benefit #7: Enhanced Sleep Quality

                      Promotion of Restful Sleep

                        Researchers believe and theorize that cold exposure can relax your body by triggering the release of hormones from reacting to low temperatures, as indicated in this study [11].

                        Another study [12] carried out on a group of individuals supports claims that their sleep quality improved after participating in cold water immersion exercise.

                        Routine for Better Sleep

                          Some people jump into a cold plunge to feel awake and re-energized, so they might opt to do it right after waking up. To improve and help you sleep better, you should schedule your cold plunge 1-2 hours before bedtime. Research [11] has shown that working out and participating in 5-minute ice baths significantly improves sleep quality. 

                          Incorporating Cold Plunges into Your Routine

                          Starting with Cold Showers

                            Now that you know the benefits of cold therapy, you probably want to take the dive immediately, but you can’t incorporate it into your routine for one reason or another. Worry not; you can still enjoy the benefits thanks to the convenience of having a shower or ice bath in your home.

                            Cold baths and cold plunges bear more similarities than differences. A cold shower can let you experience the same benefits as a cold plunge. Below are some steps to help you maximize your cold shower experience:

                            1. Start the process slowly; don’t jump right into a 50-60 degrees F shower. Instead, take a warm shower, then gradually lower the temperature of the water, allowing your body time to acclimatize to the cold
                            2. As a beginner, limit your time in the cold shower; 30 seconds should be enough for a start. Once your body gets used to the cold, you can increase the duration to 3-8 minutes
                            3. To help you stay calm and relaxed, remember to be mindful by taking deep breaths. Once you get into the cold water, your flight or flee instinct kicks in, which might make you breathe shallowly. Avoid this, as it can lead to a spiked heart rate, high blood pressure and hyperventilation 

                            Everyday Benefits

                            With scientific evidence, we’ve already ascertained the benefits of cold plunging, which directly impact your overall wellness and health. Imagine having fewer sick days, being mentally alert and in better spirits, feeling energized, etc., and having healthy hair and skin to top it all up.

                            All these only serve to make you live a fulfilling and productive life due to the improvement of your health resulting from cold exposure.

                            Consistency is Key

                            You can only experience the success and benefits of a cold plunge through consistency. The cold might be discouraging and make you think twice about retaking the plunge, but it's only by sticking with it that you will experience the benefits.

                            The hard part is taking the plunge for the first time; once you make the first step, you must remain persistent and consistent. After a few plunges, you’ll notice and feel the changes in your body.

                            Cold Plunge Options for Home

                            Other than a cold shower, the easiest option for DIY cold plunge tubs to just fill your bath with cold water from the faucet. Make sure to fill to a level that doesn’t spill over when you get in. If you live in an area that is generally warm, you may need to add ice to get the temperature under 60 degrees F, especially in the summer months. 

                            You can also opt for a cold plunge tub that is made for taking ice baths! Something like an Ice Barrel comes with an insulated shell, drain spouts, covers and chiller ready connection ports. This will help you keep the water cold and also create a separate space for your cold plunge routine!


                            Optimizing Cold Plunge Practices

                            Duration and Frequency

                              A beginner is advised to plunge for 30 seconds and slowly build up their time to a few minutes. The gradual progression of duration spent in a cold plunge gives your body time to build tolerance and acclimate to the cold.

                              With time and as your body gets used to the cold temperatures, you can plunge for 3 -10 minutes. The number of times you immerse in a week depends on personal goals, but 2-3 times spread out in a week is sufficient for a beginner.


                                The ideal water temperature to experience optimum benefits from cold plunging is 50-60 degrees F (10-15 degrees C). Some individuals have built the threshold, and their bodies have become acclimated to cold temperatures and can plunge to temperatures lower than those indicated.

                                Maximizing your experience and getting the benefits of a cold plunge, immersing at the right temperature and duration plays a significant role. 

                                Cold Plunge Benefits Conclusion 

                                It might seem unorthodox and unconventional to choose to get into a cold plunge voluntarily, but this would be a choice leading you to benefits that will not only impact the inside of your body, like improving your blood circulation and cardiovascular health, but also extend to the outside as well by contributing to weight loss, healthier skin, better mood and so much more.

                                The question is, are you ready and willing to take the plunge into freezing water to experience all the above benefits? By taking the plunge, you will be putting yourself in a position to experience potential health benefits. Choosing to embark on the cold plunge journey will lead you to a healthier lifestyle and overall wellness.

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