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Before the cold plunge: know your body

5 min

Before the cold plunge: know your body

Is your body ready? Individual physiology, timing and the outcome of cold plunges.

The ice bath trend has certainly caught everyone's attention, prompting the question: is it right for everyone? How might your body's reaction differ from others, or even change from one day to the next?

My journey into cold plunges began during the COVID-19 pandemic, I guess I was seeking health benefits and a deeper connection to my body. Initially, the experience was invigorating. However, not every plunge was pleasant, especially when I faced non-stop shivering. The turning point came when I fell ill after a session during a stressful time and the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle. This prompted me to question the practice's universal applicability and to delve deeper into the fluctuating responses of my body. Monitoring my reactions with NOWATCH and consulting with my colleague, Rebecca O’Leary, revealed the significant role of timing. This insight shed light on the dangers of blanket health trends and the critical importance of tuning into our body's unique needs.

Cold exposure, celebrated for boosting metabolism, enhancing immune response, and regulating blood sugar through the activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT), raises the question of its universal benefit. Does it truly serve everyone equally?

Should women specifically track their response to cold plunges?

The hormonal fluctuations across a woman's menstrual cycle significantly influence her response to cold. During the luteal phase, for instance, an increase in progesterone levels can elevate core body temperature, potentially heightening sensitivity to cold. This shift might undermine the benefits of cold exposure at certain times of the cycle, as was my experience.

Conversely, the follicular phase, dominated by estrogen, might enhance cold-induced thermogenesis, suggesting that women could derive greater benefits from cold exposure during this period. My personal adjustment to only engage in ice baths during this phase has been positive, though more research is essential for broader claims.

Personalising cold exposure

This journey underscores the importance of a personalised approach to cold exposure. Hormonal changes, body composition, overall health, and past experiences with cold significantly impact our response. By understanding these factors, we can optimise the timing of cold exposure for enhanced benefits.

As we continue to explore the benefits of cold exposure, it's vital to remember our uniqueness. Prior to your next cold plunge, consider your body's current physiological state. Achieving the potential benefits of cold exposure necessitates a tailored approach, closely attuned to our body's signals.

How can you use NOWATCH for cold plunge support?

The NOWATCH Sessions feature has been instrumental in understanding the impact of cold plunges on my health during specific times. By monitoring my physiological responses and personal reflections before and after each plunge—free from any predefined goals or constraints—I've gained valuable feedback on the immediate effectiveness of cold plunges. This feature has provided a detailed view of my body's reactions, allowing for a customised approach to cold exposure based on my unique physiological profile.

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