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Cold Plunging

Although the practice itself isn’t new, a new trend has recently emerged across the social media world – cold plunging or cold water immersion. Cold immersion has been used as a post-workout practice for many years to help reduce inflammation and help with muscle recovery.

What exactly is cold plunging or cold immersion? Cold plunging is done in many different locations, including cold bodies of water (i.e. lakes, streams), large tanks or pools, indoor or outdoor tubs, or specifically designed tanks made for the purpose of plunging. Temperatures also vary, but typical cold plunging temperatures range from about 38 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why all the attention in taking these dips and plunges into ice cold water? Some research has documented potential benefits; however very little research has documented the health benefits of cold water immersion. Studying this topic can come with factors that are hard to control during the studies which can make it challenging to research. Factors like the type of cold water exposure (bodies of water, plunge tanks, ice baths), length of exposure, intensity and other variables can impact the research.  

Of all the suggested health benefits, it appears that the most documented benefit is for soothing sore muscles. Limited research has also suggested some of the following potential benefits for plunging, although not well documented:  

  • Stress management
  • Improved Mental Health (including depression and anxiety)
  • Weight Loss
  • Blood Glucose Control  

With the potential benefits of plunging, there are also some potential risks to engaging in this activity:

If an individual is interested in cold plunging, it is important to first speak with their healthcare provider. Individuals should start slow, for limited amounts of time, and be aware of your body’s response. Also, do not engage in cold plunging or immersion by yourself. For additional information on this topic, read more from the American Heart Association: You’re not a polar bear: The plunge into cold water comes with risks | American Heart Association.