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What is The Ideal Cold Plunge Temperature?

In the hierarchy of things that one can do or try out to achieve optimal well-being and health benefits, would you consider an ice bath? Since you are here, it can only mean it’s something you are considering strongly, right? Someone who has yet to comprehend and understand the benefits of cold exposure might wonder why someone would voluntarily get into cold, icy water.

The short and simple of it all is the benefits. We are talking about the potential for reduced inflammation and muscle soreness, better sleep patterns, weight loss management, and improved blood circulation; the benefits extend beyond these we’ve highlighted and on to others, like achieving better mental health, improved immune system and overall well-being. You become a better and improved version of yourself.

So, how cold should this water be? Surely, the temperature range can’t be any, correct? The water has to be at the right temperature, not too cold or room temperature, to get the maximum benefits out of your cold plunge sessions. Everyone would be on the cold plunging journey if it were any cold temperature.

In this article, we shall be immersing ourselves in the freezing temperatures of cold plunging, trying to understand the question, “What is the optimal cold plunge temperature?’

The Essence of Temperature in Cold Plunge Therapy

The correct cold temperature range in cold therapy is key. As we said, room-temperature cold water or regular cold showers you can take during the summer don’t fall under the ideal temperature for a cold plunge. This temperature range can help you acclimate to the feel of cold water on your body.

By the time you get to the point of cold plunging in the correct temperature, you must go through certain steps to ensure the whole process is done safely and well. One of these steps is gradually letting your body get used to cold water, which you do by taking short cold showers even when it’s not summer.

Why Temperature Matters

Cold is the key term in cold water therapy, not warm, semi-cold, or in-between cold temperatures. The kind of cold used in cold therapy is freezing. The ideal water temperature means you will be able to get maximum benefits from a successful immersion session.

Remember, though, that the freezing temperature of the water has to be within reason; anything that goes lower than the stipulated temperature range mark is considered extreme. Staying within the correct temperature range is not only important for the benefits but also for your safety. We cannot emphasize this enough, especially for a beginner.

Plunging into water, not within the right parameters can cause your body to go into shock, leading to a spike in your heart rate, high blood pressure, or hyperventilation.

The Search for The Optimal Range

To jump or not to jump into freezing water? We already know the benefits of cold water therapy, so at this point, we know we will be jumping into the freezing water.

The whole idea of a cold plunge is to challenge your body and activate and trigger certain actions that will be beneficial. However, the temperature range of the water shouldn’t pose a risk to your health or push your body beyond its limits.

The temperature has to be at the right range, not too warm, beating the purpose of the cold plunge, and not too cold, putting you at risk of some health conditions.

As a beginner, you should ideally start plunging for shorter durations with water at 60 degrees or near it. Let your body get used to the cold temperatures by conditioning it and allowing yourself to adapt slowly.

Once you become acclimatized, you can gradually move to much cooler temperatures. At this point, you can plunge for a few minutes (2-3). Eventually, you can comfortably plunge at the 60 degrees range for longer immersions.

If you want to know more about the ideal length of time for a cold plunge, read our article: How Long To Cold Plunge For Maximum Benefits 

The Optimal Cold Plunge Temperature

A recommended temperature range of 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit [1],[2] is considered optimal for a cold plunge; some individuals can plunge at water that is colder than 50 degrees because the tolerance for individuals varies and is also dependent on one’s experience. Some will be comfortable plunging at temperatures of around 60-deg F and others are comfortable with much colder temperatures of 50-deg F.

Decoding The Temperature Range

50 degrees Fahrenheit is also (10 degrees Celsius) and is considered the lowest point in temperature that you can immerse yourself in. Going beyond this point can cause harm and adverse reactions.

60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) is slightly warmer and is a temperature range that is ideal for beginners getting started on cold water therapy. Opting to go too low than 50-deg F, believing that you can get more benefits, might be dangerous. A temperature higher than 60-deg F on the hand might not trigger the desired response.

Studies and Expert Opinions On Ideal Temperatures

A journal published in Health Effects of Voluntary Exposure to Cold Water – PMC [3] talks about several studies that were carried out to help ascertain the effects of voluntary cold water therapy at different temperature levels.

Balancing Effectiveness and Safety

We briefly discussed the importance of considering certain factors and steps to ensure safety during a cold plunge. While the correct temperature ensures effectiveness and enhances the desired response, your safety cannot be compromised during and after immersion.

It’s well-known what extended cold exposure can do to you; issues like frostbite and frostbite are the most common. Other medical conditions might also be triggered, which provides good reason to keep your safety and well-being in mind.

  • Some of the other steps to remember are:

  • Give your body enough time to acclimatize to cold water gradually

  • Pay attention to your body’s signals and avoid pushing it beyond its tolerance level

  • Get into a plunge, feet in first, and then slowly immerse yourself. Don’t jump into the plunge

  • Stay hydrated

Temperature Effects on Recovery and Wellness

Cold plunge therapy can only be effective at the correct temperature range (50oF – 60oF). If not done within this range, you will not be able to experience its effects and benefits. The correct temperature of the water you’d be immersing yourself in can help recover different areas of your body.

The different temperatures that fall in the range indicated can trigger healing and recovery of different conditions in the body. For instance, a plunge at 10oC (50oF) can accelerate and promote healing after an intense workout.

Physical Benefits at Different Temperatures

Most of the benefits of cold water therapy can be immediate or long-term, depending on how you consistently plunge. Some of the benefits of cold plunging at different temperatures are:

  • Reduced inflammation and muscle soreness

  • Improved blood circulation and flow

  • Helps to boost your body’s defense system

  • Enhances metabolism, thus helping with weight management

  • Boosts your mood by triggering the production of endorphins

  • Improves your mental well-being and cognitive performance

  • Improves your sleep patterns

Muscle Recovery and Inflammation Reduction

If your target is to take care of aches and pains from athletic activity or an intense workout through plunging, the ideal temperature range would be between 10 – 14 degrees C. As opposed to plunging at a temperature range of 20 – 30 degrees, the above range effectively reduces inflammation, muscle soreness and recovery.

The action above is possible due to your blood vessels constricting, slowing blood flow to the affected area, and allowing healing and relief.

Mental Clarity and Stress Relief

Sometimes life happens, and with it comes stress, feelings of nervousness, tension, and mood swings. The great thing about cold water therapy is that even a cold bath/shower improves your mood. But if you want to elevate your experience and get more benefits, cold plunging is a great option.

The ideal immersion temperature range to achieve mental clarity and reduce stress is between 50 degrees F – 60 degrees F. A five-minute plunge at these temperatures done even once will elevate your mood, reduce anxiety, and enhance alertness. And, as a plus, you might not have to use medication to help you achieve some of the above benefits of cold plunges. Some drugs require prolonged use to be effective, and they might become addictive; cold plunging is a better alternative.

Personalizing Temperature For Your Goals

With the knowledge of the correct cold temperature range, you can personalize the temperature to suit your needs and specific goals. The 50oF – 60oF range is considered safe and ideal; as per your desired results, you decide where you feel you’ll get the best experience on the range provided.

Picking a temperature specifically geared towards your target benefits and outcome also allows you to choose what is ideal for your tolerance to cold water. If the water temperature becomes warmer and you’d prefer cool water, you can add ice cubes/blocks that you can make in your freezer using an Ice Block by Ice Barrel.

Home Gym Owners’ Recovery Post-Workout

One of the most common benefits of cold immersion is relief and recovery post-workout. If you opt to work out at home, plunging can help accelerate recovery and reduce soreness.

The best thing about cold water therapy is that it doesn’t require you to leave home. You can get a cold plunge tub and use it for immersion on days when you’ve had intense workouts. One well-known brand that provides a great variety of plunge tubs is Ice Barrel. Be sure to look at some of the available options.

Enhancing Wellness Routines For Longevity

Everyone desires overall wellness, and for this reason, many individuals have routines that are meant to help them achieve this goal. With a routine in place, you will be able to maintain consistency and discipline, which in turn helps you get results and ensures the longevity of the goals you have achieved.

You can also include cold water therapy as you plan your other routines. Have different days spread across the week where you plunge for a few minutes. To elevate your experience in the comfort of your home, consider getting some plunge tubs available in the market.

Conclusion

The optimal temperature range for effective cold water therapy sessions is 50oF - 60oF. When choosing a temperature range for yourself, it all comes down to an individual’s tolerance levels and the benefits you are after. You can choose to go higher or lower within the indicated range.

The benefits of a cold plunge aside, you should approach the sessions cautiously and carefully. Observe and remember the safety tips provided; listen to your body as it will be the key indicator of the effects of the cold water; you will also be able to ascertain if the plunging is working or not from how your body reacts after immersion.

The Takeaway on Cold Plunge Temperatures

Cold water therapy, when done properly and within the correct safety parameters, can bring about positive changes and benefits to your body, leading to a better lifestyle and improved overall well-being.

To get the full benefits of a cold plunge, the temperature of the water has to be within a range that can bring about the physiological changes you desire while not putting your health at risk.

Encouraging Exploration and Consistency

When getting into something new, everyone is driven by personal goals or certain benefits you hope to experience from the whole process. We’ve touched on some of the benefits of cryotherapy, so why limit yourself to one or two benefits when you can gain so much more from the exercise?

We hope the information provided herein will lead you onto a journey of discovery across the optimal temperature range and that it will take you on an exploration quest for the other benefits you can experience from cold plunging at different temperatures. Don’t limit your experience to a few benefits; if you’ve already gotten accustomed to cold plunging, why not brave much more icy waters?

Remember, it’s only through consistency and determination that you can achieve the full benefits of cold water therapy.

References

[1]  Cold Plunging and the Impact on Your Health - University of Utah Health; https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/2023/03/cold-plunging-and-impact-your-health

[2] Can Water Temperature and Immersion Time Influence the Effect of Cold Water Immersion on Muscle Soreness - A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis - Sports Medicine; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-015-0431-7#Sec13

[3] Health effects of voluntary exposure to cold water – a continuing subject of debate - PMC; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9518606/  

 

 

 

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About the Author: Joe Serrao, Owner of Strength Warehouse

Joe leverages over 20 years of intense workout experience and six years in the fitness industry. As a former collegiate football player, Joe knows what it takes to stay in peak physical condition. He's dedicated to providing straightforward, expert advice on setting up home gyms, personal training spaces, and commercial facilities. Balancing his passion for fitness with being a devoted family man, Joe’s rigorous full-body and metcon workouts exemplify his commitment to staying strong and being a role model for his kids and customers alike.

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