1. Immune System Boost
One of the benefits of cold immersion is that they trigger the immune system’s white blood cells, prompting them to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid. It’s sort of a domino effect – the cold water affects the lymphatic system, which in turn affects the immune system, which ultimately keeps you feeling happy and healthy.
Cold water immersion causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body and flush waste out of the area.
2. Nervous System Stimulation
Ice baths strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the response to stress and fear.
This is the same technique that yogis and others use in meditation to gain control of what would otherwise be unconscious physical functions, such as pulse. My current understanding is that breathing exists somewhere between involuntary and voluntary.
We have automatic breathing responses to strenuous exercise or to stress — i.e., we don’t have to think about our breathing to do it.--but we can also choose to hold, slow, or hasten our breath.
By taking control of the breath, anyone can calm their entire body and strengthen their parasympathetic nervous system, which complements and works in opposition to the sympathetic.
3. Reduced Inflammation
Cold water immersion has been scientifically proven to help counteract side effects of inflammation and sore muscles after a hard workout. One of the top cold immersion benefits is lowering the temperature of your damaged muscle tissue and constricting the blood vessels. This helps reduce any swelling and inflammation, and even numbs the nerve endings, which can bring immediate pain relief. This is why professional athletes soak in an ice bath.
4. Improved Circulation
Exercise and a healthy diet are two well-known ways to improve circulation. But cold-water immersion can also stimulate blood flow. When you immerse your body in cold water, the blood rushes to surround your vital organs. Your heart then is forced to pump more efficiently, pushing blood through all your vessels and supplying every part of your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
5. Mental Toughness
To the extent that anyone can love pain and panic, I love cold water immersion. There are no competitions. No ribbons or trophies. No prize money. No extrinsic motivators that would cause me to continue to plunge.