How many ice baths a week? Neuroscientist advice

Cold water exposure has been gaining some serious traction as more and more people plunge into the cold to reap some of the powerful benefits that it can bring. Some people will be wondering how many ice baths a week should be taken to maximise benefits for optimum health, this post aims to answer exactly that with the help of neuroscientist Andrew Huberman.

What is an ice bath?

An ice bath is a practice that involves submerging a substantial part of the human body in a bath or plunge-type structure in cold or icy water for a specific duration. It is also known as cold water therapy. An ice bath is one form of cold water exposure but other forms of this can include a cold shower or an outdoor swim.

Generally for cold water therapy the ideal temperature is between 10-15°(around 50-60 Fahrenheit). The common recommendation duration for an ice bath is to never exceed the number of degrees in minutes. For example, don’t exceed 10 minutes in a 10°C ice bath.

How many ice baths a week?

Many people opt to do ice baths either daily or every other day, typically when it is convenient in their schedules. But Dr. Andrew Huberman has some science-backed observations on exactly how many ice baths a week should be taken. Neuroscientist and Stanford Professor Huberman states that what matters is the total minutes of cold exposure per week, he recommends a minimum of 11 minutes per week.

The minimum 11-minute recommendation does not mean per cold exposure session, but rather a total count that can be done across multiple sessions. For example, 4 sessions that last around 3 minutes each.

In terms of temperature, Huberman recommends water that feels uncomfortably cold but not too cold that you feel the need to jump out instantly. You should be able to withstand the temperature for a few minutes.

Dr. Andrew Huberman on The Joe Rogan Experience talks about benefits of 11 minutes cold plunge per week

Ice bath benefits of 11 minutes per week

By achieving the minimum recommended time of 11 minutes per week, Huberman states it’s been found to introduce some of the below benefits.

Dopamine increase

It has been found that there is a significant and prolonged increase of dopamine in the body that can last for hours after cold exposure. Dopamine is our feel-good hormone, and cold water exposure is a positive activity to increase dopamine in our bodies, as opposed to negative activities such as drugs and alcohol.

Increased dopamine has multiple benefits including, feeling more alert and focused, better motor control, and positive stress response.

Brown fat activation and production

With a minimum of 11 minutes of cold exposure per week, there is a noticeable change in the increase of brown fats in the body. Cold water exposure activates and promotes the production of brown fats which involve a process called thermogenesis, which essentially keeps our bodies warm without shivering. A healthier level of brown fats in the body will allow greater cold adaption and also support a high metabolism.

Increased mental barrier

The challenge of consistently doing something difficult week in and week out pushes the mind to find normality in these situations. As part of this, you will be able to last longer in the cold and travel into even colder temperatures pushing your mental barrier even further than before.

Start cold water exposure

Cold water therapy is a habit that is regularly changing people’s lives in multiple ways. If you’re curious about starting cold water exposure then you can start by simply having cold showers every day.

A great way to ease into cold water exposure as a beginner and build resilience to the cold is Wim Hof’s breathing exercise. I have found this breathing exercise extremely useful for not just cold exposure but stress management and calming the mind, I practice this exercise every single morning as soon as I wake up and have done so for multiple years.





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