The Benefits of Cold Therapy

Taking the plunge: discover the benefits of cold therapy for boosting mental and physical wellbeing.

Across the world, millions of people are taking the plunge with cold therapy to help boost their mental and physical wellbeing.

Also known as cryotherapy, cold therapy uses exposure to cold temperatures to cool the body’s tissues for therapeutic benefit. One of cold therapy’s most famous proponents is the Dutch athlete Wim Hof, known as ‘The Iceman’, who is renowned for his physical endurance and ability to withstand extreme temperatures. His popular Wim Hof Method is a series of self-developed techniques based on three ‘pillars’ – breathing exercises, mind-set, and cold exposure using cold showers and ice baths – to improve wellbeing.

The benefits of cold therapy

Cold therapy is associated with numerous benefits. Participants of the Wim Hof Method and other cold therapy techniques report greater energy and focus, higher resilience to stress, better sleep, and an improved immune and anti-inflammatory response.

Cold therapy makes the blood vessels tighten (vasoconstrict) and blood moves to the body’s vital organs, becoming oxygen-rich in the process. As the body warms up, the blood vessels expand (vasodilate) and the blood flows backs to the tissues. This stimulates the body to increase blood flow circulation, delivering freshly oxygenated blood to areas of the body that need to recover, which can be very beneficial after exercise. Over time, cold therapy can help the circulatory system become more efficient and support muscular healing. By reducing swelling and inflammation and temporarily reducing the transmission of nerve signals, it can also help to relieve pain.

Studies also link cold water immersion with reduced body fat, as well as reduced insulin resistance and improved insulin sensitivity. This may have a protective effect against cardiovascular, obesity and other metabolic diseases. Those who practice regular cold therapy such as winter swimming also report a reduction of tension and fatigue, as well as improved mood and memory.

How to practice

There are many ways to practice cold therapy. It’s best to build up slowly, and people with health conditions should always seek medical advice before undertaking any form of cold therapy.

Popular methods include:

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