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Cold water immersion (CWI) therapy is seeing a resurgence in usage outside the specialised sports recovery industry. 


Traditionally used as a muscle recovery stimulant, it has been a popular method of repairing the body by athletes that train in excessive amounts.


It is even believed to have been used as a muscle recovery method as far back as 3500 BC, as it has been mentioned in the Edwin Smith Papyrus. It was also used as a therapy by Ancient Greeks, and the Romans used CWI as a cure for fever, according to the National Library of Medicine.


However, the introduction of high volume, budget friendly home ice baths-such as the LUMI Recovery Pod and The ColdPod, indicate a wider market appeal than boxers and professional athletes.


Ice baths are being touted as a modern method of mental recovery. Fitness influencers and professionals are promoting CWI as a method of overcoming anxiety and past traumas.


It’s not simply getting into cold water, but teaching breath work skills to allow yourself to achieve a state of calm while immersed in temperatures as low as 4-5 C. 


A major part of the process is aimed at overcoming your fear of the cold. In doing so, people within the industry claim that you have the tools to deal with the stress and traumas that arise in your life.


One of the most well known practitioners of CWI therapy and breath work is the ‘Iceman’ Wim Hoff, who pioneered the self named ‘Wim Hoff Method’. 


The method was developed to “keep your body and mind in its optimal natural state” as proclaimed on the Wim Hoff Method website.


The flagship website goes on further to detail the benefits of this method, which includes:


  • Reduced stress levels

  • Greater cold tolerance

  • Faster recovery

  • Enhanced creativity 

  • Stronger immune system

  • Better sleep 

  • Heightened focus and determination

  • Improved sports performance

  • Increased willpower 


Some of the claims above have been disputed, such as the improved sports performance.


For example, a 2021 study on the effects of the Wim Hoff Breathing Method on 15 sprinters concluded that “It appears unworthy to carry this method out as the improved physiological parameters did not translate into a performance increase.”


Still, the method has been widely exported across the world, utilising cold water exposure with Hoff’s patented breathing exercises.


With its growing popularity, people have been drawn to its ability to reduce stress, anxiety and raise energy levels.


Cathyann, a Manchester woman with 12 months of experience with cold water immersion, began CWI therapy after deciding to stop drinking alcohol.


Cathyann told TheSocialTalks “My mental health wasn’t great since I knocked booze on the head; I trained to become a yoga teacher. I felt the need to spend more time ‘outdoors’ and to venture on pilates/yoga retreats and cold water swimming.”


When asked about her first experience Cathyann mentioned it was “Quite daunting at first, the waves were vicious but I knew it was something I wanted to venture into. No wetsuit- straight into the sea during the cold month of October.”


“I felt exhilarated, the cold water literally took my breath away and my skin tingled. I found myself laughing all the way throughout the experience.”


Cathyann also reported that her mental wellbeing has improved after her commitment to CWI, detailing “I feel calmer, focused and I have much more clarity. My anxiety has diminished and I honestly think this is due to cold water swimming.”


With the abundance of cold water swimming groups in the UK, alongside accessible home-pods, availability is definitely growing. Encouragingly it seems to be holding up under scientific scrutiny. 


This health trend could possibly be a major tool in improving mental wellbeing in years to come.


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1 comment

2 months, 1 week ago by TFrone

CWI is amazing and the next best thing to feeling alive to doing something daring. The mental health benefits are huge. Cathyann’s story resonates with my own.

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