Cold Plunges Might Not Be Beneficial for Everyone, Study Finds

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Cold plunges have become increasingly popular in recent years. Dutch extreme athlete and motivational speaker Wim Hof introduced the method to many people, and cold plunge tubs have become fixtures at gyms and homes across the country. However, while Hof and his followers espouse the benefits of cold plunge therapy, researchers say more scientific evidence is needed to prove how effective it is.

An analysis of past scientific studies on the Wim Hof method found that the quality of the research done isn't adequate enough to support most claims of its purported health benefits. The review, published in the PLOS One journal, found that while more work needs to be done to confirm its benefits, past studies have shown some "promising" results in some areas.

Hof claims his approach to cold water therapy leads to increased sports performance, reduced recovery time after workouts, boosted metabolism, and improved blood pressure, as well as pain relief for arthritis, asthma, autoimmune disease, and fibromyalgia. Hof preaches the gospel of his training method, and according to "The Iceman," his approach leads to lower stress, improved sleep, a stronger immune system, and greater energy, focus, and willpower. The health benefits listed on Hof’s website have not undergone scientific large scientific scrutiny or clinical trials.

Related: How Mark Wahlberg Makes a Makeshift Cold Plunge Everywhere He Goes

Overall, scientists did find that cold water immersion seemed to have some positive effects, specifically when it comes to its anti-inflammatory benefits. "The findings of this review show promising use of [the Wim Hof method] in the inflammatory response category," the team wrote, adding that "The focus of future studies should further investigate the benefits of [the Wim Hof method] in non-healthy participants with inflammatory disorders and explore the use of Wim Hof breathing method to enhance exercise performance."

But the researchers cautioned not to jump in an ice bath right away, given that there haven't been any large-scale, substantive studies on the Wim Hof method in the past. "Despite the statistical significance observed in some studies, it must be noted that the quality of the studies is very low, meaning that all the results must be interpreted with caution," the scientists wrote. They also noted that the low sample size of just a few dozen individuals per study and 86-percent male composition of past tests, "the results [are] non-generalizable to the public."

Simply put, more work needs to be done to determine just how beneficial the Wim Hof method really is to our health.

"Considering all the studies, the [Wim Hof method] may produce promising immunomodulatory effects but more research of higher quality is needed to substantiate this finding," the study concluded. "The focus of future studies should further investigate the benefits of [the Wim Hof method] in preventing or treating diseases, such as inflammatory disorders, in non-healthy participants and explore the use of [the Wim Hof breathing method] in enhancing exercise performance."

"Studies about [the Wim Hof method] have not yet investigated all the beneficial claims the [Wim Hof method] states to have," they added. "Future studies may provide valuable insights about [the Wim Hof method] as there is still much to explore."

By all means, keep doing your cold plunge. But take purported health benefits with a grain of salt until there's more solid scientific research.