The Ice-Cold Truth About This Unexpected Way To Help Burn Body Fat

Although cold water immersion has been around for thousands of years, diving in water around 59 degrees Fahrenheit has become increasingly popular for its health benefits (via Healthline). According to Wim Hof, cold water immersion circulates the blood, reduces inflammation, and increases your metabolism to lose weight. According to a recent systematic review in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health, literally chilling out might help transform body fat.

The review pulled 104 research studies specific to cold water immersion. Some studies focused on how habitual cold water swimmers regulated their body temperature. Other studies looked at how people regularly exposed to cold temperatures seemed to have better blood flow to their extremities during freezing temperatures. Ice baths have also been used by athletes to enhance recovery.

The authors concluded that, overall, cold water immersion transforms our body fat to help us adapt to cold temperatures. This brown adipose tissue produces adiponectin, which improves insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance. Because jumping into an ice-cold shower is physiologically stressful, this also makes our immune system much more resilient.

Don't take a cold plunge just yet

The review of research recognized that many of the studies lacked experimental controls, which means it's difficult to determine if it was the cold or something else. "[M]any of the health benefits claimed from regular cold exposure may not be causal and may, instead, be explained by other factors including an active lifestyle, trained stress handling, social interactions, as well as a positive mindset," the researchers wrote. Therefore, more research is needed to isolate the effect of cold water immersion.

Although ice swimming is common in countries with colder climates, it still poses a significant risk of hypothermia, according to a 2020 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Swimming in cold water could also cause a heart attack if you're inexperienced.

It takes some time for your body to acclimate to cold water therapy, according to Healthline. You can start in a warm shower and gradually turn it to cold. If you are interested in swimming, introduce the practice gradually. You should first consult with your doctor, especially if you're at risk for heart problems.