The rewards for taking a cold plunge are plentiful, and possibly the most remarkable and beneficial are the effects cold water immersion has on heart health.
Heart disease is closely linked with chronic stress. Demanding jobs, strained relationships, and the 24-hour news cycle can lead to living in a fight-or-flight state of mind. The body reacts to emotional stress and physical danger in the same way, with a flood of cortisol and other hormones that prepare for survival in an emergency.
Deliberate cold exposure develops systemic resilience and decreases the destructive effects of stress.
The Importance of Deliberate Cold Exposure
Intention and mindset influence the stress response.
If you fall through the ice in a lake, your body will react with an intense fight-or-flight response for survival. But if you choose to get into an ice bath, the experience is very different. Once you’ve decided that the discomfort is worth the benefits, your mindset will become a positive contributor to the experience.
As you get into the cold water, your body will respond with a quick breath hold and an increase in heart and respiratory rates. But there is no fear and, therefore, no increase in cortisol. Instead, you get a rush of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine. These are the hormones associated with beneficial stress.
Your mind knows you aren’t in danger. Your breathing calms, and you’ve stayed through the uncomfortable. Not only is this good for your physical and mental health at the moment, but it’s also a practice for encountering other challenges.
With time and practice, the benefits of taking a cold plunge can expand into your reactions and responses to difficult situations in everyday life.
How Cold Water Immersion Improves Heart Health
In a safe and controlled environment, ice baths can build mental and emotional resilience and improve physiological health markers, including blood lipid levels, inflammation, and heart rate variability.
Ice Baths for Improved Blood Lipid Levels
Unhealthy blood lipid levels increase the risk for heart disease.
These tests measure cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides in your blood.
Cholesterol buildup can lead to the narrowing of the arteries and is a major risk factor for a heart attack.
A 2019 study of healthy subjects found that whole-body cryotherapy (exposure to cold air)and exercise improved lipid profiles and decreased oxidative stress over the exercise-only control group. Cold water immersion may be an even more effective form of cryotherapy due to the increased pressure and conductivity of water over air.
Cold water immersion may help to reduce blood lipid levels.
Cold Plunges for Increased Heart Rate Variability
Cold water immersion has remarkable and beneficial effects on the nervous system. By influencing the body’s master communication system, it can have a significant impact on heart health.
Regular and deliberate cold exposure increases parasympathetic nervous system activity, which increases feelings of calm, facilitates healthy digestion, reduces blood pressure, reduces heart and respiratory rates, improves immune function, and decreases inflammation and pain.
Cold water immersion is an effective and non-invasive method of stimulating the vagus nerve, which brings about the “rest and digest” response of the parasympathetic system. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a resilience measure that’s closely associated with the vagus nerve. HRV is a measurement of time variation between heartbeats. Greater variability is a measure of the body’s resiliency and ability to respond quickly to changes in physiological stimulation including the ability to recover quickly.
By stimulating the vagus nerve with cold water immersion, you can build resilience naturally while naturally experiencing the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of an ice bath.
Make Cold Water Immersion Part of Your Daily Routine
If the thought of full-body immersion into an ice bath has you hesitating, start with cold showers.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly your body adapts and how energized you feel. Showers are an easy entry point to the benefits of cold therapy, and when you’re ready to take it to the next level, Ice Barrel has you covered.
We’re here to help you take advantage of the invigorating benefits of ice baths and bring cold therapy into your daily routine. Compact, durable, and easy to use, Ice Barrel delivers cold water immersion in the comfort of your own home.
The Invitation to Adventure
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