Dang! That water is cold! As a sometimes cold-water immersion therapy enthusiast, I enjoy cold water plunges to temporarily reduce muscle soreness and joint pain after a long hike or workout. According to studies on the effects of cold-water therapy on humans. Submerging one’s body at temperatures of 59F or colder offer the best results for temporary relief of inflamed muscles and joints. And as you can see in the first video. Safely submerging the body in snowmelt water. Gives the psyche a boost in positive mental attitude. And it’s also great fun!
Cold Water Immersion Therapy
Benefits of cold immersion water therapy
Ongoing studies suggest that benefits of fully immersing the body in icy water can,
- decrease inflammation
- improved mood and cognition
- improved metabolic health
Further studies are needed. But current science suggests that cold exposure also supports cardiovascular, immune, and neurocognitive health.
Repeated exposure to cold
With repeated exposure to cold the body can become climatized. As our body adapts to heat. It can also adapt to cold. Within limits, of course.
Cold shock is the body’s automatic response when suddenly immersed in cold water. During the body's response there is a risk of choking caused by the lungs quick inhale, filling the lungs with water.
Cooling the body to long
Cooling our bodies core to long risks becoming hypothermic. So, gradually build up your endurance to the shock of cold water.
You can do this by slowly getting used to the waters temperature. Try a minute up to the knees. Then two at the waist. Try several minutes submerged up to your neck. Then gradually work your way to the 5 to 10 - minute mark of immersion time.
Use breathwork to relax and release the tension of the body. As you enter icy water pay attention to where the tension goes. Often you will notice the tension begins below the waist around the groin. As you submerge deeper, the stomach, sides, shoulders, and neck, become tense.
Watch how other people enter cold water. It is a good way to see where the tension in the muscles manifests.
What is breathwork?
Breath gently in and out as you enter the water. As the tension builds use your breath to help move the tension out of the body. Do this by rapidly increasing the exhaling and inhaling of air. Increase the breath rate, inhale, and exhale rapidly only as needed. To help relax the tension you’re feeling.
In other words, use breath to push out the tension. We're not hyperventilating. We're using breathwork to help us ease and relax to the shock of cold water to the body.
Every time you feel tension in the body. Use your breath, and roll your shoulders, back and forth to release tension. And little by little relax into the water.
- increase breath rate
- breath rapidly in and out to relax the body’s tension
- roll the shoulders, neck, front to back.
- relax into the cold by letting go.
- breath slower and deeper
Our body’s Response to Cold Water Immersion
Typically, our body’s response to full immersion of cold water is an initial gasp, followed by rapid, uncontrollable breathing. An increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
A hard punch to the stomach
The shock of cold water to the body can be similar to a hard punch to the stomach. Which takes away your ability to breath normally and may cause a panic response.
The more you are able to relax the body and calm the mind. The easier you will be able to function in high stress situations.
Prepare the survival mind
I use water therapy to Prepare the Survival Mind both physically and mentally. In the event we find ourselves in cold water we want to know how our body reacts to this super shock. And how we can mediate our response to not panic. During First Circle Survival Camp students have a opportunity develop the survival mind.
There are safety issues to consider with prolong body exposure to cold or icy water. As a therapy, maximum immersion in 59F or colder water is around 10-15 minutes. Don’t stay in long enough to make your teeth chatter or become disoriented.
If you become dizzy or find it difficult standing up. You’ve been immersed to long. Use the buddy system to stay safe.
Cold water survival training
Since I began teaching wilderness survival. We’ve used water both an instructional tool and therapy for relaxing sore muscles. During teen camp and adult courses, we have had the opportunity to practice cold water survival and toughen up both our psyche and body in freezing cold snowmelt water. Brrr!
Staff Got Grit!
In the video at the top of the page. Our two staff members Khalil, and Carter, got grit! They have spent weeks adapting their body's to the shock of cold water. While having and excellent time at it.
Cold water immersion can shift a person’s state of mind. Shocking, yes! But it can have a positive effect on our psyche if done correctly. And also a relaxing effect on the body can occur as warm blood returns from the core to the body’s extremities.
During this time there can be a euphoric feeling of deep relaxation.
Warming the body after cold water therapy
I sometimes become chilled after cold water therapy especially during the winter months. My recommendation is have dry clothes ready to put on after drying off. Don't wait too long before dressing as you can begin to chill quickly.
A hot shower or bath to heat up the core is a great help. A hot drink of tea or soup is just the ticket to begin the body’s warming.
Cold water challenges
Are you ready for your own cold water challenges? If you have questions or need a little more detail on breathwork, how to relax the body, or other questions Please leave your question or comment below. Thank you!