In cold water, your muscles contract, which helps reduce swelling and aches from sore, worked-out muscles. This is one reason why athletes often take a chilly dip after workouts. It also allows the body to recover faster, which improves athletic performance and reduces back pain.
The deep involuntary breathing triggered by cold water immersion also enhances lung function, according to PubMed research. This makes it easier to perform physical tasks, such as running, lifting, and exercising. It also helps ease breathing issues caused by chronic stress and anxiety.
Cold exposure can activate the body’s natural defense mechanisms, including increasing white blood cells that help improve immune function and prevent illness. It also triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.
If you’re new to cold water therapy, start by slowly dipping your toes in the pool or taking a shower with ice water for the first few days before diving in headfirst. Then gradually increase the temperature of the water over time until you’re comfortable submerging your entire body in ice cold water for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
You can also try the Wim Hof Method, which has a number of benefits in addition to boosting your immune system. Check out his website for tips, a newsletter, an app, and online courses.