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Ice Baths in Winter: Surprising Health Benefits and How to Get Started.

Plunging into an ice bath in winter can be daunting, especially when it’s freezing cold outside. However, there is no time of the year, where braving the cold to take an ice bath is more effective. Here’s why you should consider embracing the chill, along with tips to make your winter ice bath routine more fun and doable.

Immune Boost

Though it might seem counterintuitive, regular ice baths are increasingly recognised as a powerful way to enhance your immune system. Research shows significant increases in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets among people after icy water immersion. On top of that, the body releases cold shock proteins that have been shown to fight inflammation, promote wound healing and protect muscle mass. Still not convinced?  Another study suggests that daily brief cold-water exposure over several months could enhance antitumor immunity and improve survival rates for certain cancers. 

Why not keep those bugs away this winter with a solid ice bath routine at The Cold Plunge Co Recovery Lounge?

Combatting Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression is a common struggle during the colder months. Ice baths offer a natural and effective way to lift your spirits. Regular cold immersion is reported to boost energy, focus, and overall happiness. Researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine explain that cold exposure sends a surge of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, resulting in an antidepressant effect.

Increasing Cold Tolerance

Preparing your body for the cold by facing it head-on can makes winter more bearable. Each icy plunge helps you adapt to the physical and mental stress of cold environments. With consistent practice, you’ll find yourself transitioning from “F$#K, It’s Cold Outside” to “Let It Snow” with ease! 

Skin Health

The low humidity of cold weather often leaves skin dry, cracked, or flaky, exacerbating conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Ice baths can help counteract these effects by promoting blood flow. Initially, the cold constricts blood vessels, but once you emerge, they dilate, boosting circulation and delivering essential oxygen and nutrients to your skin.

Cold water therapy strengthens contractile fibers, improving skin firmness and minimizing pore appearance. This simple practice can leave your skin looking and feeling more resilient. And you’ll look younger too! 

How to Make Ice Baths Easier in Winter

Even if you haven’t acclimated to cold immersion during warmer months, here are some  tips we use to help our clients at the studio be comfortable while taking their ice bath:

Use your Breath

When you first start your cold water exposure practice, your body will likely kick into a fight or flight response. You will want to jump out. The trick to overcoming this and to calm yourself down is deliberate and slow breathing through the nose. Take big breaths into your tummy and slowly exhale. Close your eyes and focus on your breath, relax your shoulders, your neck and chest and focus on opening your chest with each breath. 

Take It Slow

Ice baths can last from 3 to 10 minutes, but starting with minute-long sessions is perfectly fine. Gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable. Similarly, start with a “relatively” warm water of  9-12°C. We always recommend being supervised for your first ice baths. You may even consider a coach for your first times.

Recruit a Friend

Sharing the ice bath experience with a friend or family member can make it more enjoyable and less intimidating. Having support and encouragement helps maintain consistency and adds fun, and a competitive edge. A little friendly rivalry might be the key to maximizing your cold plunge potential.

If you are ready to give an ice bath a try, give us a ring or simply book in for a guided session with one of our ice bath instructors at The Cold Plunge Co. Recovery Lounge in Mt Albert, Auckland.