Men coming out of the ice bath


Cold water therapy is one of the most recent approaches to increasing lifespan and improving health. But is there any scientific proof that an ice bath or a freezing shower can make you live a longer, healthier life?

People have been looking for various ways to prolong their health span and improve longevity for centuries. From alchemists who tried to invent the elixir of youth to modern nutritionists that advertise intermittent fasting — there have been countless efforts.

Cold water therapy is one of the most recent approaches to increasing lifespan and improving health. But is there any scientific proof that an ice bath or a freezing shower can make you live a longer, healthier life?

In this article, we will try to figure out if there are any longevity perks to ice baths and cold showers.

Cold Water Therapy: Why Is It Healthy?

The first reason is that the cold has always been a companion of mankind. In ancient times, people lived in unheated dwellings, warmed themselves near a fire, and adapted to extreme temperatures. This led to the hardening and natural rejuvenation of cells and kept the body healthy for longer. Today, a typical person leads a sedentary lifestyle, spending most of their time in houses with greenhouse conditions. Our bodies have forgotten what it’s like to adapt to cold temperatures and activate a proper immune response.

The second reason a cold shower might do us some good is that a small amount of pain/coldness/stress is actually good for our bodies. When experiencing stress, the human body produces adrenaline. This hormone speeds up the heartbeat and directs more oxygen and blood to important muscles.

So, can cold water therapy be the sought-after answer to our health issues that’s been right in front of us?

Alleged Benefits of Icy Water

Throughout life, our body destroys and restores itself at the cellular level. Regular exposure to cold temperatures facilitates this process: short freezing showers or ice baths stimulate your cells’ ability to self-repair and cleanse.

Cold showers also directly increase metabolism and blood circulation. Under the influence of cold temperatures, the body begins to use additional energy for heating. Accordingly, more calories are burned, which leads to weight loss.

Cold shock therapy has proven itself well in recovery therapy after injuries. It reduces inflammation, swelling, pain, injury, and muscle spasms. Cold exposure is also believed to help alleviate migraine symptoms.

In addition, cold water alleviates mental ailments, improves mood, and helps you to be more conscious in everyday life. Cold showers are associated with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your fight-or-flight response. This triggers neurotransmitters in your brain that release endorphins, the happiness hormones.

Cold exposure may also improve the quality of your sleep. Ice water trains the nervous system. As an unfavorable factor, it triggers a reaction of tension followed by relaxation. By taking regular cold showers, you will notice that it has become much easier for you to relax and fall asleep in the evening, and your sleep will become deeper and better.

All these cold therapy benefits have a direct impact on longevity and health span.

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What Does Science Say About Cold Baths?

One of the first pieces of evidence that cold therapy could potentially affect lifespan was a study on rats. They were immersed in 23°C water for four hours a day, five days a week. Despite the fact that the test rats consumed more calories and weighed less, their lifespan was longer than the rodents not exposed to cold temperatures.

Ice baths can improve the immune response due to increased cytokine production. There’s also been evidence that cold baths can increase antioxidants like glutathione and help fight bacterial illnesses.

Other studies have shown that growing worms at low temperatures significantly increases their lifespan. However, the mechanisms underlying this process remain unclear. One of the theories is that lowering body temperature lowers the rate of chemical reactions, resulting in a slower pace of life.

How to Start Taking Freezing Showers or Ice Baths

Cold water immersion is a delicate procedure that requires a well-thought-out approach. At the initial stage, you should gradually accustom the body to the cold. There are two ways you can begin cold therapy at home:

  1. Start at a comfortable room temperature, then lower it every day.
  2. Pour cold water over one body part at a time. For example, on the first day, you can pour cold water only on the hands or neck, and the next day only on the legs. It is important that until your body is fully accustomed to cold water, you do not pour it on your head. The head dive should be the last step.

Your first cold shower should not last more than 10 seconds. Increase the duration of staying in cold water gradually. Do not forget to rub the body well with a dry towel after the procedure.

Ice Bathing: Possibly Beneficial, but to be Practiced with Caution

Some scientific discoveries have formed the basis of evidence of the positive effect of cold-water procedures on longevity. However, this topic is still under research. Be careful with any experiments and consult your doctor before starting, especially if you have a heart condition.

Also, remember that an icy shower alone will not be enough to have a long and healthy life. To ensure your anti-aging efforts do not go to waste, you must take a holistic approach. If you exercise regularly, stick to healthy eating habits, get enough sleep, and practice positive thinking — you are on the right track.  

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