The Science Behind Cold Plunging

Chris Minson, a professor of human physiology at the University of Oregon, conducts research on thermoregulation—the impact that extreme heat and cold have on the body.

While most of his studies focus on the benefits of heat, he says there’s some evidence that a euphoric feeling may follow an acute cold immersion. However, he says more research needs to be conducted on the topic in order to find out more about how long these feelings can last and the mechanisms behind them.

The impact of the freeze may go beyond that feeling of joy. In a new study that has yet to be released to the public, he and his team of researchers found that when looking at a positive-negative affect (i.e. how good you feel about things versus how bad you feel about things), people felt less negative following a brief cold water immersion, he says.

Not ready to subject yourself to a cold plunge? You may be able to reap similar benefits from extreme heat immersion, such as a sauna or hot tub. Evidence suggests that even one session of heat therapy a week reduces rates of depression, Minson says. Ultimately, it’s about find the right kind of temperature treatment for your body.

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