With the emergence of ice baths as one of the newest and easiest ways of maintaining mental and physical health, skeptics have quickly jumped into the conversation to dismiss the practice as seriously dangerous.
What the majority of skeptics fail to consider is that any practice, whether it be intense cardiovascular workouts, heat exposure, extreme sports, or even something as common as horseback riding, all carry an element of risk. Which is why those that understand the activity have protocols in place to keep their participants safe.
So far there’s been more than 3,000 people come and join us on the beach in Playa Del Carmen for one of our Reconnect sessions. People have been jumping into the cold from Mexico, Canada, the U.S., Australia, UK, Argentina, China, South Africa, and all over Europe.
We’ve had folks from 82 years old all the way down to 9. Part of the reason for our success is the fact that there are so many unique benefits to this practice. We’re proud to say that we’ve had no instances of adverse health reactions. 100% of this is due to the fact that we've developed a strict protocol and we stick to it.
With that being said here are a few parameters to keep in mind while building your own cold exposure routine:
Mind the temperature
This will take some practice. We recommend starting out slow. You can begin your ice baths at 10°C (50°F). Then slowly start to reduce the temperature. Remember this isn’t a race to get to the coldest Ice bath possible. Studies have shown that water at 10°C / 50°F will give you all the benefits you’re looking for.
Once you start to get comfortable in the cold, you can keep reducing down to 5°C (41°F). In our experience this is an optimal temperature which gives you maximum benefits, minimal risk, and still provides a solid challenge every day.
Timing is everything
We see more and more people challenging others to 15, 20, even 30 minute ice baths. In our opinion, this is completely unnecessary, and pushes the body far too close to hypothermia.
Cold exposure is a form of hormesis, a controlled stressor on the body. Emphasis on the word controlled. Once you stress your body too much you’ll start to go into survival mode. If you've hit that point, you can say goodbye to the benefits you just recently acquired.
"But I slept amazing after my 20 minute ice bath."
You'd probably sleep amazing after a marathon too. It doesn't mean that's good for you. In fact, running a marathon tears your body up, which is why runners train with much smaller distances.
The same is true with ice baths. Shorter is better. If it starts getting easy and you want to challenge yourself, just start moving in the cold.
Prior to the Ice bath, we always call aside first-timers and explain to them how their body will respond and how they can breathe accordingly to counteract the physical stress of the cold. Knowing what to expect is an important part of prepping your body for its response.
Before we go into the cold, we perform a 12-minute breathing exercise that preps our body, warms our core, connects us to our heart beat, and puts us into a mindset which reminds us that our breathing is the tool that will get us through this experience.
If you happen to attend a group ice bath session and breathing isn’t mentioned at all, we highly recommend you find another group to practice with. Not only does practicing breathwork help your body and mind in so many ways, it’s absolutely necessary to use for the cold.
There have been a few deaths around the world due to cold exposure. Anyone going into this practice should absolutely consult their doctor and refrain from plunging into the cold if they experience any of the following:
High blood pressure
Extreme sensitivity to cold (such as Raynaud's)
Knowing your body is vital if you’re going to start exposing yourself to cold water, be smart and be safe.
Almost anything comes with risk. Cold exposure isn’t for everyone. But for those of you who it is for, you should know that there are risks and you need to respect the cold above all other things.
Ignore the skeptics, keep doing your ice baths!
So for those of you who have been questioning whether or not this is a dangerous practice, remember that there is an opposite opinion for literally every single thing in this world. Do your own research and make up your own mind. Don't let anyone dissuade you from it because a few people have been harmed from it.
No one will ever fully agree on anything. But just because something has risk, doesn't mean it can't be done safely and enjoyably. If you still need convincing with science, check out our cold facts page for some recent research and science stuff.
Lastly, while it is important to always maintain a level of safety, it is always those that push the limit that end up making breakthroughs. Check out our upcoming instructor training if you're interested in becoming certified in this awesome practice.
Kevin is the founder of Reconnect and has led thousands of cold enthusiasts through breathwork and ice bath experiences. He holds a number of breathwork certifications and studied with breath expert and best-selling author James Nestor. Kevin delivers breathwork and cold exposure trainings for retreats and corporate events.