The darkness of the pitch black 5:00am morning is not enough to settle my excitement. I am awake and already craving my sunrise swim in the Serpentine. The temperature of the water is a frosty 7°C, and no, that is not a typo. Think I am crazy? Read this post, try it for yourself and you can be the judge.

While coffee is a short-term go-to energy booster, cold-water immersion will be a much more sustainable and beneficial pick-me-up. If you do not have time to hit the pond, lake or ocean in the morning, all you need is a five-minute cold shower and that will do the trick!

Besides the “I feel alive and am so happy” factor – there are a range of scientifically proven health benefits to cold water immersion.

Fat loss

There are several mechanisms that get activated when exposed to cold water that influence fat loss.

  • The first one is an increase in metabolic rates caused by shivering because a cold body needs to be heated up. The maintenance of a warm body temperature taps into energy where fat is stored.
  • The second more unexpected and exciting benefit is through the activation of brown fat. Brown fat is a heat generating type of fat that burns regular white fat – the ordinary fat that stores energy.[1] As discovered in the research by Tim Ferriss[2], you can increase your fat burning potential by as much as an incredible 300% through cold exposure.

Enhanced immune system

Regularly exposing your body to cold water is great exercise for your immune system. Cold increases and enhances activity of immune cells that help fight infection and disease. More specifically, monocyte and lymphocyte activity will be enhanced – these immune cells being instrumental in eliminating bacteria, viruses, and toxins. [3]

Increased overall resilience

When you take a dip in cold water or jump in a cold shower, the body sees this severe temperature change as a stressor. The physical reaction that occurs as a response teaches the body to adapt to stressors and become stronger over-time as a result – increasing tolerance to any form of stress including mental, emotional and physical stress. [4]

Improved blood circulation

Over time, cold-water exposure actually improves blood circulation. Since exposure to cold causes blood flow to be redirected to the vital organs, your body is forced to circulate your blood more efficiently, which ultimately improves blood circulation. Improved blood circulation helps your heart, muscles and arteries to function better and increases your vitality.

If you are still not convinced about cold water exposure, think about the amount of money you could save on energy and water bills when swapping your long hot showers with shorter cold ones? Not to mention how you would be contributing to saving the planet at a time when environmental sustainability is such a pressing issue. You will not only feel energized, but you will also feel good about the impact of your choices.

I know you must be excited to try this out, but make sure you advance slowly – whilst cold showers are a great way to kick-start your cold immersions, digging holes in icy lakes in Canada and bathing in them for five minutes is not advisable for the first go, but something you can look forward to when you take your cold water exposure to the next level.

Happy shivering!

 

[1]Teaching fat cells to burn calories: New target against obesity involves brown fat, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), March 7, 2012, accessed online on 07/01/2015 at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307184658.htm

[2]Brown Adipose Tissue in Morbidly Obese Subjects, Guy H. E. J. Vijgen, Nicole D. Bouvy et al, February 24, 2011, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017247, accessed online on 07/01/2016 at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0017247

[3]Cold stress-induced modulation of cell immunity during acute Toxoplasma gondii infection in mice. J Parasitol., Aviles H et al, 1999 Jun; 85(3):442-7, accessed online on 11/01/2016 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10386435?ordinalpos=5&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

[4]Uric acid and glutathione levels during short-term whole body cold exposure, van Kuijk FJ, Maass R et al, Free Radic Biol Med. 1994 Mar;16(3):299-305, accessed online on 07/01/2016 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8063192