Dr. CK Bray
It’s Time for a Polar Plunge!
Winter is upon us in North America, and it is time to discuss the COLD PLUNGE! (or if you are less adventurous, the cold shower). I was introduced to the cold dip and its corresponding effects on the brain and body from Wim Hof. So I decided to try his cold therapy and breathing techniques for myself. First, I found a floor model freezer that was completely lined (waterproof) and then set it up in my backyard to maintain a steady temperature of 34-37 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 – 2.8 degrees Celsius).
I gather my courage and submerge for three minutes every day. I am sure my neighbors hear the gasping during the first 30 seconds, but amazingly, I begin to enjoy it after the first ninety seconds. So why do I do it? Cold Dips (and cold showers) do wonders for your brain and your body.
Reduces Stress Levels: Regularly taking a cold plunge or shower imposes a small amount of stress on your body, which leads to a process called hardening. This means that your nervous system gradually gets used to handling moderate levels of stress. The hardening process helps you to remain calm when you find yourself in a stressful situation.
Higher Levels of Alertness: Cold therapy wakes your body up (YES, it does!) and induces a higher level of alertness. The cold stimulates deeper breathing, decreases the level of CO2 in the body, which helps you concentrate. As a result, cold therapy increases your focus throughout the day.
Robust Immune Response: Scientific studies have found that taking a cold shower or plunge increases the number of white blood cells in your body. These blood cells protect your body against diseases. Researchers believe that this process is related to an increased metabolic rate, which stimulates the immune response.
Increased Willpower: It takes a strong mind to endure the cold for an extended period of time. By incorporating cold showers into your daily routine, you are strengthening your willpower.
Weight Loss: Research has shown that cold baths and showers (and exposure to cold in general), in addition to increasing metabolic rate directly, stimulates the generation of brown fat. Brown fat is a specific type of fat tissue that generates energy by burning calories. Therefore, cold showers and plunges are effective tools for people looking to lose a few pounds.
It is best if you incorporate your cold plunge into your daily routine. It is important to begin gradually with thirty seconds and then build up in time and intensity. Start at a higher temperature (45-55 degrees) and shorter time, and then begin to lower the temperature or stay in the cold longer. You will quickly notice you can tolerate the cold and even start to look forward to your cold plunge.
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