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Make a Splash Take the Leap

Reduce Pain and Boost Overall Health with Cold-Water Methods to Try at Home

On the canvas of a body’s health, cold-water immersion has made a splash in recent years. The idea is that a brisk dip in cold water triggers the body into a state of regulation to impact your overall health. The practice is far from new, with proponents such as cold water “celebrity” Wim Hof publishing books on the practice and expounding its benefits—from reduced chronic pain and inflammation to better sleep and boosted metabolism and focus.

Cold-water immersion (CWI) includes a range of experiences. Athletes frequently dip 10-15 minutes in 50-59°F water after an intense exercise session or competition to reduce muscle pain and soreness, plus accelerate healing. A 2018 study published by the National Institute of Health showed that a two-to-three-minute immersion each day improved energy, mental and physical strength, and blood circulation. The reason? Medical experts explain that cold causes blood vessels in the body to constrict, therefore reducing blood flow to the areas immersed in chilled water. This results in reduced swelling and inflammation. There’s even some evidence that cold-water therapy may stimulate your body’s immune system. In 2016, Dutch researchers published the positive results of a study where subjects tried to voluntarily influence their own immune response by practicing meditation, deep breathing, and CWI techniques. While research continues, and the study attributed success to a combination of approaches, they credited CWI with building up a resistance to stress over time.

Wim Hof, an extreme athlete called “The Iceman,” got his nickname by breaking a number of records related to cold exposure including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, and withstanding an ice bath for more than 112 minutes. Wim proposed that contemporary bodies have become accustomed to modern-day comforts, and are therefore no longer used to cold conditions. While his personal feats are dramatic, Wim’s personal study resulted in a method designed for laypersons to gradually expose their bodies to cold, and build up a resistance within weeks. The Wim Hof Method is built on three pillars of breathing, controlled exposure to cold, and commitment.  However, CWI can be as simple as starting with graduated warm-to-cold showers each day, taking a longer immersion in the bathtub or a specially designed tub such as The Plunge, bathing in a river, or finding supervised immersion therapy sessions. A few minutes may be all you need, but remember to warm up afterward. Don’t forget, cold water immersion affects blood pressure, heart rate, and circulation, so discuss risks with a doctor before jumping in. The Plunge.com, WimHofMethod.com

Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Oregon Takes Place February 5th at Riverbend Park

Ready to take the plunge in 2022? Cold water may not be enticing, but supporting the community is always a lure. Special Olympics hopes supporting athletes with intellectual disabilities will draw local participants to the Polar Plunge at Riverbend Park, February 5 at 11 a.m. In its 16th year, the Polar Plunge began in Oregon in 2006. By 2020, about 300 participated in the Central Oregon Polar Plunge, raising $50,000. After a hiatus in 2021, the hope is to get 300 people to come out and participate once again. With a goal of a few thousand participants in seven Plunge markets across Oregon, the bar is set to raise $590,000. The event will add a 5k/10k run this year for the first time, plus an after party with food vendors, music and vendors.  There will be a warming hut for racers or post-plunge participants. “I love crazy events that are outside of the norm,” says Scott Friesen, director of Special Olympics Oregon. “With how many runs, walks, and rides there are out there raising money for notable causes, I think Polar Plunge really sets Special Olympics apart from the pack. It’s shocking, it’s thrilling, and it’s definitely outside of the comfort zone, but most importantly it brings necessary awareness and dollars to the mission of Special Olympics.” To register, visit SOOR.org.

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