Cold Therapy, Anyone?

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This week I started doing a daily polar dip in the Humber River near my home in Newfoundland. February in Newfoundland is COLD! The water is COLD!

Even though I’ve been doing cold showers for a couple of years, I REALLY don’t like being cold!

Cold showers are one thing. Plunging into cold water in the middle of winter is a whole new ball game!

So, why would I do this?

Initially, it was a challenge by my daughter and her partner. As the week continued, it became more of a three-way game of chicken - none of us wanted to be the chicken.

And so we kept it up. Monday and Tuesday were a bit shocking, but doable. The air temperature was around -9℃ (16℉). Wednesday was a balmy -3℃ (27℉) but the strong northeasterly wind made it feel WAY colder! Not that pleasant!

This morning, all was calm and serene on the river, temperature hovering around zero. The ice fog was beautiful. This was my favourite day yet.


How long will we keep doing this? I’m not really sure, but I can actually say that I am beginning to love it … especially on a day like today!

Besides the feeling of exhilaration, there are scientifically proven health benefits to being exposed to cold. It even has a name: cold therapy.

What exactly is cold therapy? Simply, cold therapy is exposure to cold for brief periods for therapeutic benefit.

You may have heard of Wim Hof, aka the ”Ice Man.” This man is incredible! He exposes his body to extreme cold temperatures for long periods. The Wim Hof Method has been used to treat many autoimmune disorders including MS, asthma, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis [1]. In one episode of Gwynyth Paltrow’s, The Goop Lab, Wim Hof taught participants his technique of specialized breathing [2] and they did a mid winter dip in Lake Tahoe.

Some examples of cold therapy include:

  • Cold water immersion

  • Ice baths

  • Cold showers

  • Submerging the face in cold water

  • Cryotherapy: chambers with temperatures at -110℃ for three minutes

There’s plenty of science backing up the therapeutic benefits of cold [3]. I’ve listed some of the health benefits below.

Health Benefits of Cold Therapy:

  • Boost the immune system: A drastic change in temperature stimulates the immune system to release vital white blood cells. The lymphatic system is also activated by sudden contraction of the lymph vessels, promoting removal of toxins. Ice bathing has been used as treatment for autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis [4].

  • Lower pain and inflammation: Sudden exposure to cold causes the release of natural pain-killing endorphins, stimulates the parasympathetic system, can trigger release of dopamine and serotonin which also lower pain.

  • Hormone upgrade: Cold exposure causes increased production of testosterone and estrogen in men and women, which can result in improved libido and other benefits [5].

  • Improved circulation: When the body suddenly gets cold, there is improved function of the circulatory system. The heart must work more efficiently to send blood to vital organs, stimulating blood flow.

  • Improved skin: When cold sends blood to organs, circulation is flushed, and the body adapts so circulation is improved.

  • Relieve muscle soreness: If you have sore muscles, the cold water constricts the blood vessels to help reduce swelling and inflammation, numb nerve endings and relieve soreness [6].

  • Help with Weight Loss: Cold therapy improves metabolism by about 16% over the long term with regular use. [7].

  • More energy: Cold water stimulates “mitochondrial biogenesis” the production of new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the “power plant” organelles in nearly every cell in our body. Most of our energy comes from the mitochondria so more of them means more energy [8].

  • Improved sense of psychological well-being: Studies have found that if used on a regular basis, the cold water increases the production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters [9].


Who shouldn’t do cold therapy? If your body is already in extremely stressed state, you have a heart condition or pregnant, consult your doctor before trying cold therapy.

Does reading about all these health benefits make you want to give it a try? Start by turning your shower to cold for 15 seconds and build from there. Even 30-90 seconds can have huge health benefits.











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  2. All information in this post is based on my personal experiences. Please discuss any changes to your diet, lifestyle or medications with your healthcare team. No information in this article is meant to replace medical advice. Please read my Terms and Conditions.