On top of providing a massive energy boost, bursts of cold come with numerous health benefits. When we challenge our body with the discomfort of freezing water it becomes more resilient and is given the chance to acclimate. After we expose the body to extreme cold it stimulates brown fat to heat itself back up. This is a “good” fat which facilitates temperature control and increases metabolism. Let’s take a look at several other advantages of contrast therapy.
In 1993, a study conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England showed that participants who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who solely took hot showers. Researchers involved with the study believe that the body’s attempt to warm itself up increases metabolic rate, which activates the immune system and in turn releases more white blood cells.
According to research at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, showers with intermittent cold water may stimulate the brain’s “blue spot”. This brain’s main source of noradrenaline which tends to mitigate depression and anxiety. Also, because we have a high density of cold receptors in our skin, the cold shower sends an immense amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, providing a natural antidepressant effect.
Good blood circulation is vital for overall health as we know it’s our blood that is delivering precious oxygen to our tissues and organs. We also experience a quicker recovery time from strenuous tasks and exercises when our circulation is healthy. Not to mention a sharper mind! Using contrast therapy when you shower is an easy way to improve your circulation. The cold water will shunt your blood to your internal organs to keep them warm while the warm water will counter that and move your blood toward your skin’s surface.
HOW TO PERFORM CONTRAST THERAPY
While finding easy access to a cold plunge is not always realistic, finding one’s own shower is a piece of cake. If you dig into contrast therapy online you’ll find people suggesting 20 minute sessions, however you can actually benefit from just a few minutes of contrast therapy and will save a lot of water! Personally, I do about 3 minutes worth at the end of my showers.
Here’s how it works:
- Ease your way into it. Start with a normal shower, then shift into the hot/cold contrast. For your first time start with 10 or 15 seconds of each, then work your way up to 30 sec or 1 minute.
- The hot is not meant to be scorching of course. Just a bit warmer than your comfort level. During the cold bursts try to relax and control your breathing.
- Stay calm. Don’t tighten or clench up every muscle. Focus your mind on the sensation of the cold and relax into it. I like to count my breaths rather than watch a clock.
- If full body contrast therapy is not your thing, you can use a Thermipaq set to reap the benefits in a focused area. For instance, over your liver or low back.
This was crater lake… talk about a delicious natural cold plunge!