What Is a Cold Plunge Tub? (Best Guide for Beginners)

The practice of using cold water as a healing tool has been around for thousands of years.

Today, the modern embodiment of this ancient technique is called a Cold Plunge Tub.

What is a cold plunge tub?

A Cold Plunge Tub is a basin designed for cold-water immersion therapy, often kept between 50-60°F. It can aid muscle recovery, boost mood, improve circulation, and enhance sleep. Not suitable for individuals with certain health conditions like cardiovascular disease.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about a cold plunge tub.

What Is a Cold Plunge Tub?

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Bathtub with ice - cold plunge tubs
I made this image – cold plunge tubs

A Cold Plunge Tub is a large basin or tub filled with cold water, often ranging from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is approximately 10 to 15.5 degrees Celsius.

You can go as low sa 34 degrees Fahrenheit.

The cold plunge tub is designed specifically for the practice of cold-water immersion, a form of therapy used for various health benefits.

Typically, you submerge your body into the tub for a short period, usually from a few minutes up to 15 minutes.

The exact timing is based on the temperature and your tolerance.

The idea is to expose your body to extreme cold to stimulate physiological responses that can boost recovery, enhance well-being, and increase resilience to stress.

Different Names for a Cold Plunge Tub

Depending on where you are in the world or the context, Cold Plunge Tubs can also go by other names.

Names such as:

  • Cold Tub
  • Ice Bath
  • Recovery Bathtub
  • Cold Water Therapy Tub
  • Chill Pool
  • Cryotherapy Tub
  • Hydrotherapy Tub

Each name reflects a different aspect of the cold-water immersion experience, but they all refer to the same essential concept: a tub designed to hold very cold water for therapeutic use.

Types of Cold Plunge Tubs

There are several types of Cold Plunge Tubs available, each with its unique features and benefits:

  1. Standalone Cold Plunge Tubs. These are freestanding units, often made of stainless steel or acrylic. They typically come with a built-in chiller to maintain the water temperature.
  2. In-Ground Cold Plunge Tubs. These are built into the ground like a small pool and are usually installed as part of a larger spa facility.
  3. Portable Cold Plunge Tubs. These are lightweight, often inflatable, and can be filled and emptied as needed. They don’t typically have built-in chillers, so ice may need to be added to achieve the desired water temperature.

How Does a Cold Plunge Tub Work?

A Cold Plunge Tub functions by providing a regulated and controlled environment for cold-water immersion therapy.

Its primary purpose is to maintain a consistently low temperature for therapeutic use.

In high-end models and commercial installations, a Cold Plunge Tub is typically equipped with a built-in refrigeration system that continually cools the water. This system functions much like a household refrigerator.

It uses a refrigerant gas, which is compressed, causing it to release heat and become a high-pressure, low-temperature liquid.

This liquid refrigerant is then circulated around the system, where it absorbs heat from the tub’s water, lowering its temperature.

It then flows back to the compressor, and the cycle repeats, maintaining a consistently cold temperature in the tub.

Simultaneously, a pump is often used to circulate the water, ensuring an even distribution of cold throughout the tub. Some systems may also feature an air blower for hydrotherapy benefits.

In contrast, simpler models, like portable or inflatable cold plunge tubs, do not usually have a built-in cooling system.

Instead, the temperature is lowered by adding ice to the water.

The amount of ice needed will depend on several factors including the initial water temperature, the size of the tub, and the desired water temperature.

Here is a good video that explains how ice baths work:

YouTube video by Wired – Ice plunge tub

Cold Plunge Tub Benefits

The cold-water immersion in a Cold Plunge Tub can induce several physiological responses, which in turn lead to various health and wellness benefits.

Here are some of them:

  1. Enhanced Recovery. Cold Plunge Tubs can help reduce muscle soreness and accelerate recovery after strenuous workouts. The cold water causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to the muscles and thereby decreasing inflammation and swelling. Once you get out of the cold water, the blood vessels dilate. This process, known as vasodilation, leads to an increased flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, aiding recovery.
  2. Improved Mental Well-being. Taking a dip in cold water can trigger the body to produce endorphins, which naturally help to alleviate pain and uplift one’s mood. This release can lead to feelings of happiness and increased energy, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  3. Boosted Immune Response. Regular exposure to cold water has been shown to increase the generation of white blood cells, enhancing the immune system’s capacity to fend off diseases. This is thought to occur because the body responds to the stress of the cold by accelerating various bodily functions, including the immune system.
  4. Improved Sleep. Cold water immersion can have a positive effect on sleep quality. The process can lead to physical fatigue, helping you to fall asleep more easily. Additionally, the cold can also reduce cortisol levels – a stress hormone that can interfere with sleep.
  5. Enhanced Circulation. The repeated constriction and dilation of blood vessels during and after cold immersion can improve cardiovascular circulation. This improved circulation can help flush toxins from the system, deliver more oxygen to the tissues, and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Cold Plunge Tub Negatives

Despite their numerous benefits, Cold Plunge Tubs aren’t without potential drawbacks and risks:

  1. Hypothermia. Immersion in cold water can significantly lower body temperature. If the water is too cold, or if the immersion lasts for too long, there’s a risk of hypothermia. Symptoms include shivering, fast breathing, tiredness, confusion, and loss of coordination.
  2. Initial Discomfort and Shock. The first few times you step into a Cold Plunge Tub, you might experience considerable discomfort or even pain due to the abrupt temperature change. This can make it difficult for some people to stick with the practice.
  3. Health Risks for Certain Individuals. Cold Plunge Tubs can pose risks for people with certain health conditions. For example, the rapid cooling and subsequent rewarming of the body can put stress on the heart, potentially leading to heart problems in susceptible individuals.
  4. Maintenance and Upkeep. Maintaining a Cold Plunge Tub can be time-consuming and expensive. Regular tasks may include cleaning the tub, changing or treating the water to maintain cleanliness and balance, and monitoring the water temperature.

Who Is a Cold Plunge Tub For?

Cold Plunge Tubs are generally suitable for healthy adults who want to boost their wellness routine.

They are particularly popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts for their recovery benefits.

People who struggle with poor sleep or chronic stress might also benefit from regular cold plunges. The practice can lead to physical fatigue, promoting better sleep, and can help regulate cortisol levels, reducing the effects of stress.

Those seeking to improve their immune function might find value in cold water immersion, given its potential to stimulate immune responses.

Who Is a Cold Plunge Tub Not For?

While Cold Plunge Tubs can be beneficial for many people, they aren’t suitable for everyone.

Certain individuals should avoid cold water therapy or proceed with caution.

Individuals diagnosed with conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or lung-related issues are included in this group.

The sudden cold can put a strain on the heart and respiratory system, which could lead to complications for these individuals.

Cold water immersion may also not be suitable for those with conditions such as Raynaud’s disease, which affects blood circulation in the extremities, or conditions like peripheral neuropathy that alter sensation in the limbs.

Pregnant women should also avoid cold water immersion due to the potential for it to cause distress for both the mother and the baby.

Lastly, the elderly or those with mobility issues might find it difficult to safely enter and exit a Cold Plunge Tub.

As with any wellness practice, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider before beginning a cold plunge regimen, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.

My Personal Experience With a Cold Plunge Tub

When I first stepped into a Cold Plunge Tub, the icy water was quite a shock.

However, I quickly grew accustomed to the sensation, and after a few minutes, I found it invigorating. Afterward, I felt energized and focused.

Over time, regular cold plunges have become a highlight of my wellness routine, and I have noticed improvements in my recovery times after workouts and my overall mood.

Best Cold Plunge Tubs

Here are some of the best cold plunge tubs on the market:

  1. The Coldtub. Known for its reliability and sturdy build, this model offers precise temperature control.
  2. The Plunge. A popular choice, it boasts a rapid chilling system and insulated design.
  3. Ice Frontier Portable Ice Bath Tub. This is a great option if you plan to move around your bathtub.

FAQ: Cold Plunge Tubs

Before we wrap this guide up, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about cold plunge bathtubs.

Can You Cold Plunge In Your Bathtub?

Yes, you can cold plunge in your regular bathtub by filling it with cold water. However, the water might not reach the same low temperatures as a dedicated Cold Plunge Tub unless you add ice.

Can You Make Your Own Cold Plunge Tub?

Yes, it’s possible to create a DIY Cold Plunge Tub using a large, insulated container, like a stock tank or a chest freezer. However, these options require careful monitoring and additional work to maintain the right temperature and cleanliness.

What Ice Do You Use for a Cold Plunge?

You can use regular bagged ice from a grocery store or ice machine. You may also consider purchasing large reusable freezer packs that can be rotated in and out of the tub to maintain the cold temperature.

Final Thoughts: The Cold Recovery Bathtub

Warning: Once you start using a cold plunge bathtub, it might be very hard to stop.

They have a way of quickly becoming a part of your everyday routine.

Read This Next:


National Institute of Health (Research on Cold Tub Plunges)

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