Everyday Cold-Plunge

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In Minnesota, Polar plunge is the biggest fundraiser for Special Olympics in Minnesota. According to its website, the event involves “a series of events where people go to the extreme to support Special Olympics Minnesota”.

This Discover magazine article digs into the science behind the cold water plunges. It writes:

Cold water immersion is an ancient practice that has roots in many different cultures, particularly those in high latitudes. Scandinavians have long lauded the post-sauna cold dip as a way to rinse off toxins, jump-start blood flow, and release endorphins. Even Hippocrates and Thomas Jefferson avowed the benefits of soaking in cold water — but is it worth it?

A recent Outside article has a profile of a Yoga teacher and owner of of a hot yoga studio in Rode Island, Brooke Finocchiaro. During the past January (2023) she reportedly subjected herself to a daily cold plunge in the ocean to manage her anxiety and stress. She told the magazine “As soon as you turn your passion into your career, it’s not as easy to relax during a yoga class. So, I’ve had to turn to other coping mechanisms for my anxiety and depression.”

Brooke added to the magazine “Her elevated mood kept her coming back to the water—even on the coldest days. Once you’re done with a plunge, you have all this energy. For me, it clears my mind and gives me the energy to get through the rest of the day.”

Chris Minson, a professor of human physiology at the University of Oregon, conducts research on thermoregulation, told the Magazine “there’s some evidence that a euphoric feeling may follow an acute cold immersion. […] more research needs to be conducted on the topic in order to find out more about how long these feelings can last and the mechanisms behind them.”

According to the Discover Magazine, MC Jenni of Montana, has walked to the edge of the cold Montana creek near her home every day for the past 14 years. “When I go under and come up, everything is clearer. That moment of clarity is elating,” Jenni told the magazine. “Not only is it rejuvenating, it affirms that I have courage and self-will. It’s a process of reuniting with myself in a simplistic, primal way.”

What are cold water benefit?

The Discover magazine cites research that has shown benefits to cold plunge practitioners.

  • “One study tracked 49 Finnish winter swimmers who dipped in cold water an average of four times per week. After four months, they reported a significant decrease in tension and fatigue, as well as an improvement in mood and memory compared to 33 non-swimmers. Plus, the swimmers who suffered from rheumatic diseases like arthritis or fibromyalgia reported pain relief.
  • “Researchers followed 85 Germans who regularly participated in cold water swims and found they contracted 40 percent fewer upper respiratory infections than a control group. The swimmers’ blood samples showed boosted antioxidant protection, which may be why they were better able to stave off illnesses. 
  • “Research now underway in the U.K. has found cold water swimmers also produce a protein that protects the brain from degenerative diseases like dementia.
  • “A recent case study reported that a woman who had suffered from severe depression for eight years was able to stop taking antidepressant medication after swimming in cold water once a week improved her mood. Even cold showers have been shown to have antidepressant effects.

Regarding the cold shock, Jenni from Montana told the Magazine “I always listen to my body to see whether it wants to go in. It changes every day, just like the creek. I feel at home in cold water, but it’s certainly not for everyone.”