Taking the Plunge: A Healthy Chill
Glen Ivy is well known for its warm pools and hot mineral baths, but a new addition to our water experiences has some of or guests, well, shrieking. The recent adaptation of one of our Terrace Pools to a cold plunge and the ensuing high-pitched screams from those brave enough to immerse themselves in it has raised eyebrows, caused goosebumps and posed the question, “why would anyone want to jump into a cold pool?”
The answer is simple: It’s good for you. Really. Not exactly in the same way that brussel sprouts and tofu are good for you, but even better—and, (this is what differentiates it from brussel sprouts), you can learn to enjoy a cold plunge.
While you may be saying, “Not me, I like my water steamy and warm,” once you learn of the many health benefits of partaking of this ancient therapy, you too will be lining up to take the plunge.
Contrast therapy, the alternating of submersing the body in hot then cold water, has been used to support and maintain health and vitality for thousands of years. The oldest recorded use is in Traditional Chinese Medicine over 3,000 years ago. Cold plunges were also a common feature of Roman baths and spas, and the Finns have been employing contrast therapy through a dry hot sauna followed by a plunge in an icy lake or a roll in the snow for at least a thousand years. In the 1800′s, Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest, popularized contrast therapy in Europe after curing himself of lung disease through daily immersion in icy water.
Modern science and medicine have supported what was previously learned by observation. Research has shown that a cold plunge of less than a minute causes the release of endorphins and hormones that have analgesic properties, causing joint and muscle pain to diminish. Additionally, the immune system is strengthened through the resulting release of cytokines and other chemicals that help the body to fight illnesses and infection. Rapidly alternating the body’s exposure to hot and cold temperatures stimulates the kidneys and increases circulation, resulting in a reduction of uric acid and toxins in the body. Recent research has shown that contrast therapy causes a reduction of inflammatory markers; this finding is particularly important as many diseases that are so prevalent in the western world are rooted in systemic inflammation, (diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, and autoimmune diseases to name a few). Hot/Cold therapy reduces recovery time in athletes because it helps to reduce the blood lactate concentration. Most significantly, studies show that breast cancer patients that use cold plunge therapy have increased levels of white blood cells – an important factor in fighting off disease.
If you are still struggling with this aspect of the cold plunge, because it might not feel good, remember that it always starts with warmth; most sources recommend starting out with 5-10 minutes in a dry sauna or mineral spring. The cold plunge that follows only needs to be 45 seconds to one minute, although seasoned plungers may choose a 5:5 ratio. While devoted followers of this therapy may continue the rotation of hot and cold for up to 30 minutes, only 10 minutes or so is needed to reap the many benefits. The therapy can even be part of your morning shower. Most experts agree that the therapy should end after a cold immersion. After just a few times taking the plunge you will see and feel the difference: a reduced amount of toxins in the body will make for softer and clearer skin, healthier blood circulation will bring a rosy glow to the face, and you will find yourself with more energy and stamina throughout the day, and maybe even a savings on your daily latte expenses! After a week’s practice, you will begin to look forward to your daily plunge — and you may even stop shrieking.
Warm (and Cold) Water Wishes,
Director of Guest Experience Programming
Glen Ivy Hot Springs