Have you ever submersed yourself in a freezing cold ice bath? If you're wondering, "Why the heck would I subject myself to such a brutally chilling experience?" just hear us out. Cold water therapy is associated with a host of incredible health benefits, including improving sleep, enhancing circulation, boosting energy levels, and decreasing inflammation, Healthline reports. Athletes also utilize this kind of treatment to help soothe sore muscles. Recent research adds yet another benefit to this impressive list: Taking an ice bath can help you burn body fat. Gear up, because if you're still a bit skeptical, these findings may convince you to take a healthy, cold plunge!
Even if you haven't tried cold water/ice bathing before, you've likely seen or read about your favorite athletes and wellness influencers testing out this icy form of therapy. A recent review published in the journal International Journal of Circumpolar Health looked at 104 studies to explore the health benefits of cold-water immersion (CWI), and let's just say, the hype is real if you want to burn body fat. Taking an ice-cold dip could decrease your chances of developing diabetes, according to the authors of the study. CWI seems to boost the amount of "adiponectin," a hormone that's composed of adipose tissue. Adiponectin is integral in hindering insulin resistance, which occurs when your fat, muscles, and liver experience decreased responsiveness to insulin.
"If these stresses [on our physiology from cold water exposure] are repeated over time, and we are able to recover and adapt to the stresses, our physiology will be more resilient, and we may have lower levels of background inflammation (which occurs when we are sedentary, eating poorly, or have excess body fat)," Dr. Chris Minson, an expert in exercise physiology, women's health, heart health, and thermoregulation at the University of Oregon says (via Healthline).
One of the study authors and a professor at UIT—The Arctic University of Norway, Dr. James B. Mercer, explains that a variety of benefits have been linked to cold water exposure (some of which we previously discussed), including burning calories, decreasing stress, boosting your immune system, giving your metabolism a jumpstart, alleviating depression, reducing inflammation and pain, and expanding your social circle (via Healthline). Dr. Mercer says, "Our investigation shows that there is increasing evidence that many of these suggestions may be correct, especially regarding the potential preventative health effects on the immune system, potential prophylactic effects on the cardiovascular system, prophylaxis against insulin resistance, and improved insulin sensitivity and mental health."
Cold water immersion impacts your circulation, heart rate, and blood pressure, which could result in major stress on your heart (via Healthline). So it's imperative to discuss trying this kind of therapy with a healthcare professional beforehand. If you get the green light, get ready to soak up the plethora of health benefits of taking a cold plunge!