Cold Water Therapy

Over the last few years, cold water therapy has become very popular. Wim Hof is the person most associated with this, especially since the TV programme with various celebrities putting themselves through his method. 

Some of these, like plunging into ice-covered waters, do seem rather extreme, especially when sitting in the warmth of your house. However, the benefits of cold water therapy are numerous and the water does not need to be ice-cold. 

Achieving these benefits can be as simple as lowering the temperature of your shower, going for a dip in the sea or an unheated pool, or filling a bath with ice and water and going for the full icy plunge. From an arthritic point of view, I have personally found it has had a very positive impact, and this was my main driver to start to get into the water. 

Cold water is something that is accessible to us all. As cold water therapy becomes more popular, research into this area is increasing. There are many physical and mental benefits which have been scientifically validated:

Physical benefits:

  • Boosts the immune system
  • Improves circulation 
  • Can help to relieve arthritis and reduce auto-immune inflammation 
  • Helps the body recover from exercise 
  • Can increase metabolism
  • Improves cardiovascular function
  • Helps reduce hot flushes 

Mental benefits:

  • Reduces stress
  • Produces a natural high 
  • Improves mind-body connection 
  • Helps increase willpower
  • Improve general well-being and possibly help with depression

I started to take a morning plunge in my pool earlier in the year. Initially, it was around 20º so not particularly cold, but it still took a bit of getting used to! Even though it wasn’t cold-cold, I still found positive effects from it. It helped me to acclimatise as the temperature dropped. There is something quite magical about swimming as the sun is rising. It is definitely a good way to wake up every morning! 

One of the key elements of Wim Hof is about the breath and it is by using the breath you can help to control the mind and to feel calm even as you enter the cold water. Breathwork has such a positive impact on the mind so anything we can do to incorporate it into our day-to-day lives can only improve our health and well-being.  

I personally do not follow the Wim Hof method, but I tend to go for my swim after I have done a short meditation focusing on the breath. This enables me to feel calm and relaxed as I get into the cold. It gives the start to the day a good dose of positive energy, and physically really helps when my joints are feeling inflamed or my muscles sore from training. 

The best way is to start slowly, beginning with turning the shower to cold at the end of each shower, slowly increasing the amount of time it is cold, and then you can start to take short dips in the water, gradually increasing the time in the water. You need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, as cold water is never that pleasant. It does not need to be for a long time. Between 3–5 mins of cold water therapy has been shown to be enough to have benefits.

So why don’t you start today by turning down the shower and then build up to that plunge in the sea, pool or lake? Your body and your mind will thank you for it. 

Ann de Jongh is a health and wellbeing coach.

To read more about the Wim Hof Method go to

Outdoor Swimmer is also a great source of information about how to safely swim outdoors

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