The Surprising Benefits of Cold Plunge Baths

A miniature cold plunge bath with ice in it.

I was at a day spa a while ago with my bestie and she was thrilled to see a cold plunge bath. I thought she was barking mad. How is a freezing cold plunge bath something to get excited about? Why not just enjoy a nice hot one? Madness!!

According to my friend, a cold plunge bath is beneficial but I want to find more before I take the plunge. Sorry. No more dad jokes.

improved muscle recovery

By all accounts, one of the most notable benefits of cold baths is their potential to aid in muscle recovery. After intense exercise, muscle soreness is a common occurrence, and cold baths can help reduce the inflammation and swelling that often accompany it. A scientific study published in Frontiers, found that a cold plunge bath was effective in decreasing muscle soreness and promoting faster recovery. Ohio State University suggest that the cold temperate can:

  • Cause a slow down in breathing and sweating
  • Reduce swelling and tissue breakdown
  • Shift lactic acid away from your muscles.

It would seem that a cold plunge bath is a valuable tool for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.

STILL NOT CONVINCED. I’m the type of person who dips her toe in the ocean and if it’s not body temperature, I’m not going in. After vigorous exercise, I’d rather just have a nice lie down.

Enhanced mood and mental health

The shock of cold water triggers the release of endorphins, which can lead to enhanced mood and mental health, with reduced feelings of anxiety and depression. Science Direct published a research paper on the effects of winter sea bathing and found that it was associated with lower levels of self-reported stress and higher wellbeing. Can I just meditate or go for a brisk walk instead?

Some studies show that cold plunge baths can enhance mental health and mood.

Boosted Immune Function

Medical News today discuss a study which found that people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick for work or school, despite taking a shower for 30, 60, or 90 seconds. This led them to conclude that the body’s immune system is triggered regardless of duration (small mercy I’m thinking).

While it’s not a replacement for other healthy lifestyle practices, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise, cold baths may just offer an additional way to support your immune system.

I think I’ll just eat more broccoli and ginger…

enhanced circulation and heart health

Cold baths can stimulate blood flow and improve circulation according to Exposure to cold water which causes blood vessels to constrict and then dilate, can lead to better overall cardiovascular health. They maintain that once the body has adapted to the cold, this may help improve the elasticity of blood vessels and reduce hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular diseases.

better sleep

If you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep, a cold bath might be the solution you’re looking for. The drop in body temperature that follows a cold bath can help regulate your sleep patterns and promote better sleep quality.  BetterUp suggest that the drop in body temperature after a cold shower can induce relaxation and aid in falling asleep faster.

Studies show that cold plunge baths can improve sleep.


Don’t be trying this if you have a dodgy ticker. The American Heart Foundation lists significant risks associated with cold exposure, one of which includes heart muscle damage.

Other risks include frostbite, hypothermia, heart arrhythmias and even heart attacks. Always consult with your doctor before you undertake a new practice or fitness regime.

While the idea of cold baths may seem daunting, the scientific evidence does suggest there are benefits from a cold plunge bath. That said, there is still a bunch more research that needs to be done in this area.

In the meantime, you can have your cold plunge baths and cold showers – I’ll stick with warm baths and meditation thanks!   

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