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Getting the temperature optimal for your cold plunge is important for maximizing the benefits of doing the practice in the first place. What is the ideal cold plunge temperature though? This article answers this question and explains much more about the practice!
What Is a Cold Plunge?
A cold plunge, also known as an ice bath or cold water immersion, is a therapeutic practice that involves submerging your body in cold water for a short period. The water is typically at a significantly lower temperature than what you’d experience in a regular bath or swimming pool. The purpose of a cold plunge is to expose the body to cold temperatures to achieve various physiological and psychological benefits.
Cold plunges have been used for centuries in different cultures and are still popular today, especially among athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and people seeking stress relief or post-exercise recovery.
Some of the potential benefits of cold plunges include:
Enhanced Blood Circulation
An Improved Immune System
What is the Optimal Cold Plunge Temperature?
The optimal temperature range for a cold plunge can range from person to person because everyone’s individual tolerance level is different. Cold plunges are often used for different purposes such as post-exercise recovery, stress relief, enhancing mental well-being, or simply a refreshing experience.
Optimal Temperature Range For Athletes
Many athletes and health enthusiasts use cold plunges to aid in muscle recovery and reduce inflammation after intense exercises. In this context, a temperature range of around 50° to 60° is commonly recommended. This range is cold enough to constrict blood vessels and reduce the inflammation that you may have but not cold enough to cause discomfort or potential health risks.
If you would like to challenge yourself, you can go colder. Cold Plunge tubs go much lower in temperature range than the recommended 50° point. Most of them go as low as 39°.
Optimal Temperature Range for Stress Relief or Enhancing Mental Fortitude
Most people that get into cold plunging either fall into one of two categories, they are athletes or health enthusiasts looking to recover and invest back into the body or those that are everyday people and heard about the benefits either through a friend or some podcast.
Whichever camp you fall into, you can use the cold plunge to just experience a form of relaxation or to push yourself mentally. In these cases, the temperature range you want to shoot for is somewhere between 55° – 69°. This range does give you the refreshing shock that comes with cold plunging but may not be the most suitable to break the thermal layer and reap the entirety of the benefits of cold plunges.
It is important to note that the whole point of cold plunging is to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and find new limits, it just so happens that those temperature ranges happen to have a positive impact on the body.
You do not need to start bone-chilling temperatures. Actually, it is advised that you don’t do that. Work your way up to colder temperatures, step-by-step.
Cold Plunge Do’s and Don’ts
Work your way up to colder temperatures
Put yourself in a position to be worked mentally and physically
Focus on deep breathing
Stay in your comfort zone
Jump into temperatures you are not ready to handle
Cold plunge at night or when you are about to go to bed
Potential Risks of Cold Plunging
If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any cold therapy regimen. When you start getting into the cold water ranging below 50° things can get much more wonky.
We have an entire article dedicated to going over the risks of cold plunging (are cold plunges risky?) so if there are any concerns on your end you should start by reading that. For 90% of people, the practice will be entirely safe.
How to Prepare for Your First Ice Bath
Awh!!! So you decided to take the plunge for the first time and maybe you’re feeling a bit nervous, this is totally fine because we know that we have been there before!
Cold Plunging has been something we have been doing for years now and always love what we get out of the experience. here are some things to help you prepare for your first cold plunge:
Wear comfortable clothing. Men: shorts (with underwear) and a T-shirt (optional) are totally fine. Women: Can wear athletic clothing or swimsuits with a t-shirt (optional)
Bring a towel, not all cold plunge studios have towels (most will)
Focus on your breathing. The initial shock from submerging your body in the cold can be intense. It makes your life much easier going into the water 1) knowing this and 2) focusing on your breath instead of how cold the water is.
Set a timer, shoot for 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds. The first Cold plunge does not need to be long, work your way up to long times. It is a marathon, not a race.
The key is to experience cold exposure that feels somewhat uncomfortable but not dangerously cold. The cold should be tolerable enough for you to stay in the water for a few minutes to experience the desired physiological responses.
How Long Should You Cold Plunge?
There is a whole article that is dedicated to answering this question but depending on someone’s experience with the practice this time with vary.
Our suggestion is to always work your way up to longer time periods submerged in the water. The long you can go the better the practice gets for your mind. There is a threshold though, staying in water that is extremely cold (around 33° to 37°) for too long can cause your body to have a negative reaction to a practice that is supposed to be for the betterment of your body.
Please read the following article for more details on how long to stay in a cold plunge (source).
Who Should Stay Away
People that should consult with a medical professional before cold plunging or just stay away from it entirely are the following:
Elderly people who are not active (do not go too cold if you go and plunge)
People with underlying health conditions that leave them susceptible to things like hypothermia
Pregnant women (read here) can cold plunge but do not go too cold
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 40 degrees too cold for an ice bath?
Yes, 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) is considered too cold for an ice bath but if you are only in the water for a short period of time you should be okay. It is not advised to stay in at this temperature for longer than a couple of minutes.
Ice baths are typically used for cold therapy or post-exercise recovery, and while cold exposure can have some benefits, extremely cold temperatures can be dangerous and lead to adverse effects.
Water at 40 degrees Fahrenheit is close to freezing, and prolonged exposure to such cold temperatures can pose significant risks to your health if you are not prepared for this type of cold exposure. It can lead to hypothermia, where your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, resulting in a dangerously low core body temperature.
What if I take a cold plunge at the lowest temperature my device can go?
Always prioritize safety and avoid pushing yourself beyond your comfort and tolerance levels. with that being said, just exercise the practice with caution. We advise you not to stay in for a prolonged period of time.
How long should you sit in a cold plunge?
Depending on your experience and tolerance level you can stay in a cold plunge anywhere between 2 – 5 minutes and be totally fine. If it is your first-time cold plunging, work your way up to those time periods, and if you are more experienced with the practice and want to push yourself go for longer.
Is a 2-minute cold plunge good?
Yes, this timing is ideal for those that want to reap the benefits of cold plunging. A 2-minute cold plunge first thing in the morning can be a beneficial way to start off your day!