There are lots of awesome benefits of cold water plunges

Post updated April 2024

I’m sure you’ve heard about cold water swimming, but are you aware of its many health benefits? I know I wasn’t. I saw pictures of people dunking themselves into freezing cold water and wondered what the heck they were doing. And why? Why would someone jump through ice and swim in cold ocean water? Because, as it turns out, there are a multitude of cold plunge benefits.

I was nervous about doing my first cold water swim in the ocean, but I was committed to doing it. I’m thankful I found two friends brave enough to do it with me! There are so many benefits of swimming in cold ocean water. Grab your swimsuit and let’s check out six of these benefits.

6 awesome cold water swimming health benefits
cold water swimming health benefits

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Cold plunges and cold water swimming are a method of biohacking. You may have heard this term recently as it’s trending in the health and wellness industry.

6 cold water swimming health benefits

1. Cold water dips improve circulation

Studies have shown that cold water swimming helps improve our circulation. Improving circulation is very important during the colder winter months and is very beneficial for your extremities.

When we take the plunge, the extreme change in temperature signals our heart to pump more blood to our organs, increasing our circulation. This helps flush toxins out of our bodies as well as provide a healthy glow and clearer skin.

Woman doing a cold plunge for its many health benefits

2. Enjoy better, deeper sleep after a cold water swim

Subjecting our bodies to cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps our bodies rest and repair. This promotes a feeling of relaxation and calm, which results in helping us get a better night’s sleep.

Sleep is important to our overall health so this benefit alone should be enough for many people to take the plunge. Personally, I can’t say that I have experienced this benefit, but it may take more than one cold plunge to see this benefit.

3. Swimming in cold water creates a sense of well-being

From my own personal experience, I can attest to this being true. I wasn’t too sure about going through with this. Thankfully, I convinced two friends to do it with me so there was no backing out, lol!

After the initial shock of the freezing cold water set in, I allowed myself to fully embrace the cold water. I stayed in for approximately two minutes before running back up to the beach and my warm towel. The sense of accomplishment and overall satisfaction was overwhelming.

Update – since my initial cold water swim in the ocean, I have done a few other cold plunges. The most recent one was during my trip to Seattle where I managed a 2.5-minute cold plunge in a metal tub! That one took a lot of willpower, but the benefits were worth it. Plus, there was a warm sauna waiting for me.

Woman standing on the beach after doing a cold water swim
There was something magical about doing our cold water dip at sunset

“Cold water swimming is a holistic therapy. Exercise, being in nature, community – the cold water is an additional effect.”

~ Dr. Mark Harper, cold-water swimmer who co-authored a British Medical Journal case report about the theories around cold water adaptation as a treatment for depression.

More cold water swimming health benefits

4. Increases energy

Doing a cold water dip increases your endorphins. It’s like a natural high! Your brain will release endorphins as you enter the shockingly cold water, resulting in you feeling energized once you emerge. I know that I sure did!

This is the one benefit of doing a cold water swim that is immediate. As soon as I emerged from the icy ocean waters, I felt energized and revitalized.

5. Reduces inflammation

Athletes are known to immerse themselves in ice baths after a strenuous practice, or to help heal an injury. We all know that ice reduces inflammation so it makes perfect sense that a full-body immersion into icy cold waters would reduce inflammation inside your body.

Pictured below is my cold plunge in a metal tub, but there were no ice cubes. It was cold enough as is!

One of the best weekend activities in Seattle is a cold water plunge.

6. Boosts your immune system

Swimming in cold water has been widely studied. As I mentioned earlier, you will experience an initial shock when your body first hits the cold water. Cold water shock usually lasts for about 90 seconds. This shock helps to kick-start your body’s immune system.

This then helps to boost the white blood cell count because your body is forced to react to changing conditions. A strong, healthy immune system helps us ward off illness.

Three women running into the ocean in January for a cold plunge
I found two friends adventurous enough to try a cold water dip in January in BC

Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but videos are better. If you want to watch my cold water swim, check out my video reel on Instagram. I filmed my ocean dip on Bowen Island. The average water temperature in Bowen Island during the month of January is 6.5°C/43.7°F. I’m not going to lie, it was definitely cold, but it was so worth it!

If you think you aren’t going to be able to brave the cold, try it while wearing a wetsuit. Your hands, feet and face will still get wet so you can try it before committing to just wearing a bathing suit. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can try going in just your swimsuit.

Conclusion – Cold Plunge Benefits

What do you think, would you try a cold water swim? Have these cold water swimming health benefits convinced you to try it? If you do, be sure to have a large towel and warm clothes to wrap yourself in afterwards. Warming up after your swim is important to avoid hypothermia.

If you would prefer to indulge in another form of self-care, check out my post for 10 self-care activities to try today (that are warmer than this!)

Another warmer self-care activity to try is forest bathing. There are amazing health benefits of forest bathing as well.

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*Disclaimer – I am not a doctor or health care provider. Cold water swimming comes with risks and you should consult your health care practitioner before trying this if you have any health concerns.

Feature photo by Tyler Lillico on Unsplash