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In the foreground, a man with tattooed arms and red and white striped swim trunks and a boy with long hair are splashing water as they walk into the surf. In the middle ground and background, people are standing or walking in the water. In the distance are the white foam of incoming waves.
Photo by Joshua Best
Health

Are Cold Plunges Good for You?

Research suggests they are, in three ways

The modern “polar bear swim” originated in Vancouver in 1920, but cold-water plunges have existed at least since the ancient Greeks and Romans. In Finland, where the practice is usually paired with a sauna, it’s a national obsession.

Lately, it seems everyone is trying the icy ritual, spurred on by social media posts and celebrity endorsements (from Lady Gaga and Zac Efron, to name two). But do cold plunges actually improve your health?

According to Greg Wells (MSc 1999, PhD 2004), a physiologist and wellness advocate, frequent immersion in icy water can boost your well-being in three ways: by elevating your mood, reducing inflammation, and increasing your metabolism. Watch the short video below to learn more.

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What Should You Know Before Doing a Cold Plunge?

There may be health benefits to immersing yourself in frigid water, but Wells says there are several important things to know before jumping into an icy lake. First, you don’t actually need to jump into an icy lake (and really shouldn’t) to get the benefits of a cold-water dip. You should never do it alone, and you should always consult a physician before trying it, as there are risks – especially for anyone with a history of heart issues. As Wells explains in the video below, it’s also likely to be the most painful thing you do in a day. Watch to learn more.

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  1. 3 Responses to “ Are Cold Plunges Good for You? ”

  2. Eric Windeler says:

    I love cold plunges. I am also the founder of a national youth mental health charity called Jack.org. (My wife and Jack.org co-founder, Sandra Hanington, is a member of U of T's Governing Council). Cold plunges are known to be good for your mental and physical health. Each December, we do a fundraiser for Jack.org called BrainFreeze. In 2023, 712 participants plunged together. True, it’s not for everyone, and the Wim Hof breathing method is very helpful while you are plunging. But even a two-minute cold shower can be very invigorating. I highly recommend it!

  3. Ruby Goldberg says:

    Scientific citations, please!

  4. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    @Ruby Goldberg

    This article, provided by Greg Wells, has many citations.