Health benefits of cold water immersion

Time Out Dubai's Shitika Anand has information on the health benefits of cold water immersion including stress relief and weight loss

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a whole new range of extreme-weather fat reducing and toning methods doing the rounds in Dubai. From attempting a downward dog in 44°C, to a full-body cryotherapy session, moving around in room temperature is so 2015. Summer has kicked in, and even a dip in the ocean feels like a soak in a hot bath. However, this city has come up with clever new ways to combat the desert heat without setting foot in Ski Dubai.

One such method is immersing yourself in a cold bath. While that thought may send chills down your spine, it is in fact a proven way to cure arthritis, joint pain, reduce soreness and even burn calories. Remember that Ice Bucket Challenge everyone seemed to be doing a couple of years ago? Yes, including the Beckhams. Well, turns out, there’s more benefit than the entertainment we all got from it (and, of course, the funds raised for ALS). “The cold water in plunge pools acts as a shock treatment for the circulation system as it increases blood flow in the whole body,” explains Angelika Hartung, assistant spa director at Talise Spa in Madinat Jumeirah. “Plunge pools open up the pores, and we recommend immersing yourself in a cold pool prior to getting a massage, so the oils can better penetrate your skin.”

Several studies have shown that those regularly exposed to cold water immersion, especially when it’s hot outside, became more resistant to oxidative stress – the inability of the body to detoxify the harmful effects of free radicals. This brief exposure to cold may actually prepare the body to resist any greater stress.

But how can jumping into a cold pool help burn calories? A study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2015 found that brown fat (the good kind that you need to keep you warm) is activated by the cold. Brown fat was thought to only exist in mice and human newborns until 2009, when it was detected in human adults as well.

Unlike energy-storing white fat, brown fat is located in odd places around the body, such as the upper back, on the side of the neck, between the collarbone and shoulder and along the spine, and it’s responsible for burning calories when we’re chilly. In the study, men who were locked up in a cold room burned an average of 250 calories over three hours, 80 percent more than they would have normally burned in a room at 21°C to 25°C.

Hartung recommends alternating between the hot and plunge pool at Talise Spa to “shock” the body with the change in temperature. The Talise Spa cold plunge pool is set to a constant 10°C, and the hot pool is set to 38°C. Happy plunging.

Dhs200 (day pass for spa facilities only, including cold plunge pool). Open daily 7am-9.30pm. Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, (04 366 6818).

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