Cold Water Immersion Can Have Benefits

Medscape Staff

December 08, 2022

Bathing in cold water or ice may cut "bad" body fat and reduce the risk of disorders such as diabetes, but other claims of health benefits are less defined, according to researchers from the Arctic University of Norway and the University Hospital of North Norway.

What to Know

  • Immersion in cold water has a major impact on the body. It elevates the heart rate and has positive effects on brown adipose tissue, a type of "good" body fat that is activated by cold and may protect against obesity and cardiovascular disease.

  • Exposure to cold water or cold air also appears to increase the production of the protein adiponectin by adipose tissue. Adiponectin plays a key role in protecting against insulin resistance, diabetes, and other diseases.

  • Repeated cold-water immersions by inexperienced as well as experienced swimmers during the winter months significantly increased insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin concentrations.

  • Numerous health and well-being claims from regular exposure to the cold, such as weight loss, better mental health, and increased libido, may be explained by other factors, including an active lifestyle, trained stress handling, social interactions, as well as a positive mindset.

  • Those seeking to voluntarily practice cold-water emersion need to be educated about possible health risks associated with taking a dip in icy water, which include the consequences of hypothermia, and of heart and lung problems, which are often related to the shock from the cold.

This is a summary of the article, "Health Effects of Voluntary Exposure to Cold Water ― A Continuing Subject of Debate," published by the International Journal of Circumpolar Health on September 22, 2022. The full article can be found on tandtonline.com .

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