10 Health Benefits of a Polar Plunge and Cold Therapy

Minnesota Ice Hole Winter 1

An Ancient Practice

Polar plunge, cold exposure, cold therapy, cold water immersion, therapeutic hypothermia. Whatever you call it, this ancient practice has been providing health benefits to humans for thousands of years. While cold exposure offers many health benefits, it’s important to take safety precautions seriously and never go alone.

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Ice cold exposure polar plunge
Ice cold exposure polar plunge

Important Things to Know

  • Check ahead to see if you need to sign a waiver.
  • Never go alone, always bring a friend for safety.
  • Lay down a yoga mat to prevent socks, hats, towels, and other items from sticking to the ice.
  • Bring a changing robelike this pink one from Red Paddle, so that you can quickly remove your wet bathing suit and put on dry clothing. Use code “expeditonkristen10” for a 10% discount on Red Paddle’s entire website.
  • Start by only staying in for 1-2 minutes and build up your time from there.
  • Focus on your breath. Breathe slowly, stay present, and do not panic. Know that you can get out at any time.
  • Bring hot cocoa, tea, or coffee in a thermos to sip after you are done and trying to warm up again.
  • Wear neoprene socks to keep feet warm, or rubber soled sandals so you don’t have to walk directly on the ice.
  • Make sure your gloves or mittens are waterproof!
Ice cold exposure polar plunge

1. Socializing with Friends in Nature

Fewer things are better for our minds, hearts, and souls than spending time outside with friends. Sometimes just five minutes of sunshine on a cold February day can make a huge difference, especially when you’re laughing and chatting with good company.

2. Improves Mental Health

Depression is a mental disorder that affects one out of five adults. While cold therapy can’t cure clinically diagnosed depression, it does send a jolt of electrical impulses to the brain, which can trigger “happy” hormones.

Minnesota Ice Hole Winter 1

3. Reduces Inflammation

Cold exposure can help reduce inflammation in the same way that putting a cold pack on an injury can reduce swelling. This is one of the many reasons why polar plunges are popular with athletes.

4. Boosts the Immune System

Polar plunges can help our bodies produce stronger anti-inflammatory responses, reducing the frequency and severity of being infected with colds and diseases.

Minnesota Ice Hole Winter 1

5. Increases Energy

Polar plunges can increase energy by stimulating our heart rate, respiration rate and oxygen levels. These can all lead to an increase in energy and alertness.

6. Increased Blood Circulation

Proper blood circulation is critical for a strong immune system and healthy heart. Cold exposure enhances cardiovascular health, which helps promote healthy hearts and immune systems.

Ice cold exposure polar plunge

7. Reduces Stress

Cold exposure stimulates the Vagus nerve which lowers the heart rate and reduces stress hormones. Additionally, cold therapy increases the production of endorphins and dopamine. 

8. Nourishes Hair and Skin

Cold therapy tightens skins and reduces the size of pores. Cold exposure can also benefit our hair follicles making hair thicker and healthier.

Minnesota Ice Hole Winter 1

9. Increases Lung Function

Lung function can be improved by the deep (and involuntary) breathing that happens when you’re practicing cold therapy. For me personally, I have to focus on deep, slow breaths in order to mentally work through the discomfort.

10. Improves Sleep

While the mind and body are stimulated during the cold exposure experience, the Vagus nerve is no longer stimulated once you warm up. This can lead to feelings of peace and calmness.

Ice Plunge Minnesota Winter

Embrace Winter

Winter in Minnesota can be challenging. Finding unique and seasonal activities like cold exposure can be incredibly beneficial for our mental and physical health. For the changing robe pictured above, check out redpaddle.com and use code “expeditionkristen10” for a 10% discount on the entire website. For additional ideas on embracing winter, check out my blog posts on 26 things to do for winter in Minnesota, top 5 Minnesota winter destinations, and 9 reasons to visit Crosby, Minnesota during winter.

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