Around 5 years ago, cold water immersion was just what happened when the shower inexplicably went cold halfway through your hair wash, but since Wim Hof’s rise to fame and a surge in the popularity of bizarre wellness treatments, it's become the new big thing for our mental and physical health.
For those who are unaware, Wim Hof (or ‘The Iceman’) is a Dutch wellness guru who swears by his three pronged approach to physical and mental improvement. One part of his regime is cold exposure, which he has achieved by swimming in ice water, running barefoot in the Arctic Circle and climbing mountains in shorts and no shirt. But the good news for us busy humans (who don't have time to nip over to Iceland for a jog) is that cold water therapy is easily done at home, so read on for our recommended techniques!
While the BBC’s attempt to base a show around this phenomenon missed the mark for most viewers, with reality show ‘Freeze The Fear’ being labelled as a ploy to reduce complaints about heating costs by promoting the benefits of being cold, we’re here to be your no-nonsense guides to the world of icy water.
What Are The Benefits?
Submersion in cold water has been found to speed up recovery from exercise, reducing the effect of those dreaded DOMS (that's gym lingo for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). So if you’re the one limping around the office groaning every time you sit down because you did legs yesterday, this is for you.
The anti-inflammatory effects of the cold water treatment mean it has pain-relieving benefits which are valuable for those suffering from conditions such as Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or injuries like sprains.
There is also evidence that cold water therapy may boost the immune system and speed up your metabolic rate, increasing your calorie burning capacity.
Much like with other forms of exercise, research has shown that a cold plunge can temporarily increase dopamine levels. It’s thought the cold method can increase this feel good chemical by up to 250 percent (FYI - this is the same amount as sex). Although it may not be quite as enjoyable as a bit of the old ‘adult nap time’, a few minutes in cold water is probably easier than going for a run, so...swings and roundabouts!
How To Do Cold Water Therapy
One of the easiest ways to get yourself used to cold water is by taking cold showers. You can gradually reduce the temperature of the water every time you shower if you aren't ready to whack the dial straight to cold right away.
For the more adventurous, swimming outdoors gives an extra rush by connecting you with nature. The ocean is the obvious choice if you want to go totally au naturel, but for those who don't live by the coast a local outdoor pool will provide all the same benefits! Plus a note for the boujee - there's no better feeling than jumping straight out of cold water and into a jacuzzi...
But for those short on time or without access to a pool, or who want to reap the benefits of this treatment in the comfort of home, the portable ice bath is a great solution. It reduces the hassle of fumbling around getting changed on a public beach, plus you can leap straight from those icy depths into a warm shower or wrap yourself in a dressing gown and six duvets - the choice is yours.
For those ready to channel their inner Iceman (or woman) and give this a go, here are our top tips for staying safe:
- Warm up as soon as you get out of the water by putting on layers and drinking a hot drink
- You only need a few minutes in the water to get the benefits, any longer than this and you increase your risk of hypothermia
- Talk to your doctor before donning your swimmers if you have an existing health condition, particularly issues with the heart or circulation.
So what are you waiting for? Give your Dryrobe a life beyond the school run and finally tackle that bikini line, because it's time to go swimming!