Cold water therapy isn’t just for elite athletes and bodybuilders – anyone can reap the benefits, including boosted metabolism, reduced inflammation, increased circulation and a slew of other health-boosting effects. A growing number of companies are designing tanks you can use at home — or even wear as a backpack — that chill the water to temperatures below freezing, as well as mobile apps and other tools to help you get started.
The goal is to expose your body to extreme cold for brief periods of time, such as dipping into a cool lake, taking a cold shower or a dip in a pool or lake. Ideally, you’ll gradually increase the duration of the cold immersion until you can hold your breath for at least a minute. You can also alternate cold and hot showers, or take a deep plunge into icy water to cool your body down after an intense workout or game.
Cold immersion helps reduce inflammation and relieves aches and pains by causing the blood vessels to constrict, then dilate to promote blood flow. This boosts muscle recovery, and improves circulation throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your cells while flushing away toxins.
Another great benefit is that it boosts the immune system, which can help your body fight infections and disease. In fact, one PubMed study found that people who took daily cold showers called in sick for work 29% less than those who didn’t. The cold exposure also stimulates the production of leukocytes, which are white blood cells that fight infections.