October 4, 2018
Cold Water Therapy ... Is It Worth the Discomfort?
WRITTEN BY Amanda O'Brien

Central Athlete prides itself on delivering the most personalized experience for each client, not only with each client’s individualized training plan but also with the client’s nutritional, lifestyle and recovery protocols. The better we can understand each client at the deepest level, the more able we are to provide support through various mechanisms outside of training and nutrition.

Our recovery center is aimed at doing just that -- supporting each client independently based upon unique circumstances. The infrared sauna has been a powerful tool for supporting people in their body composition endeavors through detoxification but it has also been a key addition for those concerned with improving cardiovascular health and work capacity. The vibration plates have been crucial for clients who may experience a more sedentary lifestyle and/or who have poor circulation and lymph drainage.

The last tool we are excited to announce has not yet arrived in the Central Athlete recovery room: the cold water tank. It is currently in the process of being custom-built and is estimated to arrive within the next few weeks. Cold water immersion has been scientifically proven to improve cardiovascular health, decrease muscle soreness and increase the healthy godo—brown fat within the body.

Because habitual exposure to cold water provides many benefits, from improving the circulatory and lymphatic system to fat loss and improved recovery between training sessions, there is no doubt why people like Tony Robbins, Ben Greenfield and Wim Hof take part in a daily routine revolving around cold water immersion. Although submerging yourself in a tub full of freezing water may not sound as enticing as sitting in a warm box like the infrared sauna, after reading this article, we think you might muster up enough courage to give it a shot!

Let’s break down the benefits into 3 distinct parts.

Lymphatic & Circulatory Systems

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels throughout the body that are responsible for removing waste. This system does not run off a central pump like the heart but is instead activated through muscle contraction. Therefore, minimal movement can cause the lymphatic system to slow and become inefficient, leading to stagnating fluid and toxic build-up, which can result in excessive colds, joint pain, infection and disease.

Submitting your body to extreme cold is proven to stimulate the lymphatic system by causing the lymph vessels to contract. This activation of lymph fluid throughout your body then triggers the immune system’s white blood cells to attack foreign and toxic substances—thus improving immunity and supporting the body's natural detoxification processes.

As for the cardiovascular system, the immediate stress that cold water immersion creates within the body causes your blood to pump directly to surrounding organs. After continual use, this results in increased blood flow due to the strengthening of arteries. Imagine the cold water exposure as an exercise for your heart as it needs to work hard to pump blood to the body’s organs. So, not only are you receiving the benefits of improved lymph drainage, you are also strengthening your heart and its vessels through repeated cold exposure and acute stress!

Fat Loss & Increased Metabolism

Consistent practices of cold water immersion have been shown to increase metabolism by forcing our bodies to work harder to keep us warm, which in turn burns more calories in the process. This effect, also known as cold thermogenesis, promotes the “healthier” brown adipose tissue, which is responsible for generating heat in order to warm our bodies. Brown fat is activated when exposed to extreme cold and can be found around your collar bones, sternum, neck and upper back. It is also responsible for burning the regular, white adipose tissue (bad fat) that accumulates around your stomach, butt, hips and legs. A study conducted in 2009 found that through consistent cold water exposure, brown fat increased by 15-fold. Researchers even found a reduction in white fat that accumulates over time through poor lifestyle and nutritional choices.


Cold water therapy has been used for many years to offset muscle soreness after intense training and is a very common practice for competitive athletes of various sports to avoid the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness. Cold water exposure lowers the temperature of damaged tissues, restricting the blood vessels and reducing swelling and inflammation. Although there are many benefits from chronic cold water exposure as it relates to recovery and decreased muscle soreness, there are still ongoing debates as to whether it is effective for non-competitive athletes to practice cold water exposure immediately post-training. Speeding up the recovery process and decreasing the body’s natural inflammation can be crucial for athletes competing in multi-event sports who need to recover as quickly as possible. On the other hand, for those not competing, the inflammatory response is crucial in order to adapt to the purpose stressor of training.  With that being said, if you are in the middle of a competition, cold water immersion could be a great tool/practice after an event. But, for those looking for the adaptive benefits of training, you may want wait several hours before submerging yourself in freezing water in order reap the benefits of muscle growth and increased performance.


If you’re looking for a boost of energy, cold water immersion in the morning could be extremely beneficial whereas practicing cold water therapy in the evening has been shown to help with improved quality of sleep by lowering body temperature. But anytime throughout the day will be useful in generating the benefits described above. The recommended dose for extreme temperatures is anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes based on the water temperature and experience. For those who want to experience the benefits of cold water therapy but do not have access to a cold water tub, cold showers are a great place to start! By ending each shower with a cold splash of 30 seconds to 3 minutes you, too, can stimulate the lymphatic system and strengthen the cardiovascular system. You’ll notice the more you expose yourself to cold temperature, the more your body will be able to tolerate it.

As always, in order to receive the biggest benefit from fancy recovery tools and equipment, it is important they are used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and nutritional application. If you are looking for more guidance in your health and fitness journey to ensure you are moving objectively towards your goals, schedule a free strategy session with a Central Athlete coach by clicking the link below. We ensure your hard work pays off and your results are met by creating a tangible and personalized plan that is executable and designed specifically for you!

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