Cold showers and ice baths are both examples of cold water immersion, a practice that Charles Tabone, ND, a naturopathic practitioner with Pause Studio, tells mbg has “been around for millennia.”
Though uncomfortable, exposure to cold water under these circumstances (safely in a tub or pool or body of water) acts as a positive stressor that causes the body to go beyond its reactive instincts, and, rather, adapt physically and cognitively.
“When shocked with a drastic temperature change, various signaling proteins are produced, which can also cause numerous systemic effects,” Tabone explains. In other words, the shock of cold causes the brain to signal to other parts of the body that it’s under stress and needs to respond accordingly.
Tabone says this can result in the production of mitochondria (membrane-covered structures that generate the chemical energy cells need to perform specific functions), an increase in a person’s resting metabolism (how many calories the body burns at rest), and/or the release of endorphins (aka happy hormones). There are also mental benefits to taking ice baths, Tabone adds.
Here are the health benefits of ice baths that have been the most extensively studied in scientific research: