Ice baths have taken the wellness world by storm. Is the discomfort worth it?
Ice baths have become a popular practice among the health-conscious, with everyone from LeBron James to Kim Kardashian taking the plunge. Cold plunges involve immersing oneself in water often under 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 to 5 minutes. While not comfortable, cold plunges have been found to offer a range of benefits for both physical and mental health.
One of the primary benefits of cold-water exposure is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. When the body is exposed to the water, blood vessels constrict, which can reduce swelling and inflammation after intense workouts. Plunges have also been found to boost circulation and improve cardiovascular health. The sudden exposure to cold water can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, increasing heart rate and blood flow throughout the body. This can help to improve oxygenation of the muscles and organs and may even lead to better mental clarity and focus, as well as stronger hair and skin.
In addition to physical benefits, cold plunges have been found to improve mental health and resilience. Cold exposure has been shown to activate the release of endorphins to reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall feelings of well-being. Studies have also suggested that cold exposure can support better sleep quality.
Contrast therapy, or going from a sauna to an ice bath, can have even more physical and mental health benefits. However, it’s recommended to approach this practice with caution, as immersing oneself in such contrasting temperatures can be stressful on the body, particularly if done too frequently or for too long.
Two popular brands of at-home ice baths are Plunge and Ice Barrel. Plunge provides crystal clear, 39-degree water on demand without needing ice or plumbing, and can go inside or outside. Users can fill their Plunges up with a hose, turn it on, and step in. Ice Barrel is a portable, durable, compact solution that you fill with water and ice, and take the cold plunge.
Wellness hubs are also paying more attention to cold-water exposure. Remedy Place, a social wellness club founded by Dr. Jonathan Leary, has a sleek ice bath studio, where members can take the cold plunge classes that include holotropic breathwork. Remedy Place also has private contrast suits where members can seamlessly transition from an infrared sauna to an ice bath.
Will cold plunges be a fad, or are they here to stay? With the trend receiving more and more attention, it appears ice baths may stick around for a while—so don’t hold your breath.