Ideal Cold Plunge Temperature & Time: A Guide Backed by Science

Bravo! You’ve decided to join the club. Whether you have already decided to dive into cold therapy because of the benefits it provides or are still debating if this whole trend is ridiculous, you may have some questions that are being left unanswered.

What is the ideal cold plunge temperature?” “How long should I cold plunge?” or “What is the best time to cold plunge??” No worries. In this guide, I’ll answer all of your questions. 

We’ll cover everything from how long you should stay in an ice bath to how cold should an ice bath be so you can actually reap the benefits of cold therapy.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves, metaphorically speaking, and dive into it.

Key Takeaways:

  • The ideal temperature and time of your cold plunges often varies depending  on your individual needs and body.
  • You should aim for a temperature that is “untomterably cold.”
  • Experts recommend a total of 11 minutes of cold therapy  a week divided into 2-5 sessions.

What is The Ideal Cold Plunges Temperature?

man cold plunging with blue hat on

First things first. You need to be aware that the ideal cold plunge temperature is still being researched and debated.

So, How cold should an ice plunge be?

The experts have spoken, and the sweet spot for an effective cold plunge experience hovers between 50°F to 59°F (10°C to 15°C) (may vary a little depending on who you ask).

It is important to tailor your ice bath temperature and duration based on your existing level of cold adaptation.

Let me explain.

Cold adaptation is, well, you guessed it! How adapted to the cold you are.

Your tolerance to cold exposure builds up as you do it more often. So, as a beginner, you have to measure your baseline cold tolerance and move forward from there. The temperature also varies depending on your individual goals.

Studies suggest that “Water temperature of between 10 and 15 °C demonstrated the best results for immediate and delayed effects in muscle recovery.” And about 14 °C for 1 hour to see positive impacts on your immune system.

The temperature range for ice baths you decide to begin with should be:

Uncomfortably cold.

Andrew Huberman breaks this down in one of his podcast episodes. The temperature should be uncomfortably cold and leave you shivering without being harmful. That temperature really depends on the individual. So play around with it and find your sweet spot.

Personal Tip:

As your tolerance to cold increases, you keep increasing the minutes and/or sessions or decreasing the temperature. Make sure you are properly measuring the temperature of your cold plunge or ice bath. If you are using cold plunge tubs like Blue Cube or Edge Tub, you don’t have to worry too much as you can control it from your phone.

On the other hand, if you are using ice baths, such as the ice barrel or Polar Pod (that require ice), make sure you are using a thermometer to control and measure the temperature while you are adding ice.

Factors to Consider for the Ideal Ice Bath Temperature:

Cold plunge temperature debate. Man in shower half represents cold and other half hot

The full benefits of cold water therapy vary depending on the temperature of your session. So consider these factors below to asses your ideal temperature for ice baths:

Your Cold Tolerance:

Are you the type of person who is constantly freezing? or the one who wears tank tops in mid-December? 

Your ability to handle the cold is a major player in determining the right ice bath temperature for you. If you’re used to the cold, like seasoned winter swimmers, or love winter sports, a lower temperature might be your thing.

But if you’re new to the whole cold water scene, starting a bit warmer and gradually lowering the temperature can help you adjust without shocking your system.

Other factors include gender, body fat percentage, and the type of way to practice cold water exposure you choose.

Health and Well-being:

Before you take the plunge, it’s wise to have a chat with your healthcare provider. Especially if you’ve got any health conditions that might not play well with the cold water temperatures. Conditions like heart issues or sensitivity to cold temps, such as Raynaud’s disease, could influence how your body responds.

Cold water therapy has its perks, but it’s crucial to make sure it aligns with your health goals. Your healthcare provider can provide tailored advice and help you navigate any potential risks associated with the cold.

Intended Benefits and Goals:

What’s your game plan? Are you looking for post-exercise recovery, or maybe hoping to ease those stubborn muscle aches? Your desired outcomes can steer you toward the right temperature of the water.

If you’re chasing improved circulation or aiming for the invigorating shock of cold for immunity benefits, you might lean towards a colder temperature. It’s like a wake-up call for your body’s systems.

If your goal is just to get started, start with a higher temperature and work towards the ideal temperature range for ice baths.

Timing is Everything: How Long Should You Stay in a Cold Plunge?

Shower icon with clock and snowflakes surrounding it

The million-dollar question – how long should I stay in the freezing water? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are got some solid guidelines to help you navigate this.

Dr. Susanna Soberg, a leading expert in the field, suggests that the minimum effective amount of cold water therapy is around 11 minutes per week. Huberman also recommends “2-4 sessions lasting 1-5 mins each distributed across the week.” 

Personal TIP:

If you’re new to cold water therapy, ease in with brief plunges of around 1 minute and gradually increase to 2-5 minutes. These are good guidelines to enjoy the potential health benefits of cold water immersion.

Time of Day: What is The Best Time to Cold Plunge?

What is the best time to ice bath? The benefits of cold exposure vary depending on the time you partake in it. Assess your goals and choose accordingly.

1. Pre-workout (like Joe Rogan): Physical and mental edge

Like biohacking podcaster Joe Rogan’s cold water therapy pre-workout. Combining cold therapy with a sauna session pre-exercise can enhance blood flow and prime both your body and mind for peak performance. Doing it pre-workout can also prevent the dulling of muscle hypertrophy (aka gains.)

2. Morning Plunge: Energy boost (tell the coffee goodbye)

Tap into the power of cold water by practicing cold therapy in the morning if you are looking for an energy boost. It has been generally agreed that cold therapy or cold water immersion is optimal in the morning time. The cold triggers the release of norepinephrine and other stimulating hormones that leave you feeling alert and invigorated.

3. Post-workout: Accelerate recovery

The effects of cold water after a workout are great for athletes. If you are looking to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, this is the perfect time. The risk of this cold immersion timing is that you may hinder your muscle growth. Muscle building requires inflammation (hypertrophy), which is dulled by cold water.

4. Rest Day: Protect muscle and recharge

If you still want a challenge during rest days, plunging into cold waters on these days provides regeneration without impeding strength adaptations. Studies indicate consistent cold exposure safeguards muscles even at rest and enhances overall recuperation. Plus, you still get the mood and focus boosts!

5. Psychological effects:

Practicing cold plunge therapy whenever you are feeling stressed, anxious, or unfocused can deliver an instant mental reset. The gasp reflex and catecholamine release act as a reset button for your mind and mood. If you are trying to break cycles or addictions you can use this as a method to stop engaging in those behaviors. 

Cold Plunge Tips: For The Best Cold Plunge Sessions

Girl with goose bumps wrapping arm around herself

Cold water therapy at home is a great way to get the benefits of cold therapy, reducing costs, and maximizing convenience. Whether you are using an ice barrel or another DIY ice bath, here are a few tips for cold water immersion therapy:

1. Ease into It

 Imagine taking a gradual step into a cold pool – that’s the way to tackle cold plunges. Instead of diving headfirst, let your body adapt gradually to the cold sensation. 

2. Music

Enhance your cold plunge with a simple trick – play some music. Whether it’s your favorite tunes or calming melodies, music can add a layer of distraction and make the experience more enjoyable. I love playing my workout playlist or something to hype me up.

3. Hot and Cold Combo

Ever tried alternating between hot and cold water? It’s a practical technique known as contrast therapy. Switch between warm and cold temperatures – like a warm shower followed by a brisk plunge. This method can boost circulation and leave you feeling revitalized. When I first started, I used this method, and it was a great way to ease into things.

4. Body Signals 

A golden rule – always listen to your body. If you feel discomfort or your body signals a need to slow down, pay attention. Cold water therapy should energize, not exhaust. Trust your body’s cues, and make adjustments accordingly.

So there you have it – a set of straightforward yet effective strategies to elevate your cold plunge sessions. Whether you’re starting gently, grooving to your favorite tunes, enjoying some aromatherapy, or giving contrast therapy a try, these practical tips are here to help you get the most out of your cold water immersion journey. Remember, it’s all about discovering what suits you best, tuning into your body, and embracing the invigorating power of the cold.

Cold Plunge vs Cold Shower

Cold shower versus cold plunge

The age-old debate – cold plunge or cold shower? Let’s break it down for you:

While both have their perks, the cold plunge offers a more immersive and intense experience compared to a quick cold shower. It’s like choosing between a sprinkle and a full-on rain shower.

Cold plunge involves immersing oneself in cold water. It requires a higher tolerance to cold water and can be more expensive. The benefits are said to be greater and you get what you pay for: a highly optimized and enjoyable experience. 

Cold showers are great for beginners. Low cost and high convenience while still starting one’s exposure to cold water therapy is essential. The cons of this method are that it may not be as effective and can’t necessarily control or monitor the temperature of the water. The cold water varies on and off depending on where you live and the current season.

Long Story Short:

The sweet spot seems to be 50-59°F for 1-5 minutes, with colder temps and longer exposures as you acclimate. Timing varies too – pre-workout cold plunges can boost performance while post-workout helps recovery.

My personal advice for beginners would be to start by trying brief 30-60 second cold showers. Once you stop hating the cold, graduate to a cold plunge tub for a more intense therapeutic immersion. Proper temperature control, gradual acclimation, and listening to your body are key

I honestly have lived the benefits of ice baths myself and they are 110% worth it! Not gonna lie, it can be freaking uncomfortable at first, but the rush of endorphins and accomplishment you feel after is unexplainable. I really hope you give it a shot!

Now that you know the ideal cold plunge temperature and how long to cold plunge, will you take the plunge? 

Ice Bath Ideal Temperature and Time: FAQ

What is cold water therapy?

Cold water therapy, also known as cold plunge therapy, is a form of hydrotherapy that involves immersing the body in cold water for therapeutic purposes.

What are the benefits of cold water therapy?

Cold water therapy has a ton of benefits, including improved circulation, reduced muscle soreness and inflammation, enhanced recovery after exercise, increased alertness and mental clarity, and improved immune function.

How does cold water therapy work?

When you immerse your body in cold water, the cold temperature constricts your blood vessels, which increases oxygen delivery and blood flow to your muscles and organs. This promotes healing and reduces inflammation.

What is a cold plunge tub?

A cold plunge tub is a small pool or tub filled with cold water that is specifically designed for cold water therapy. It allows you to immerse your body in cold water for the desired duration.

About the Author, Sophia Victoria
About the Author, Sophia Victoria

Sophi is a health, wellness, and lifestyle blogger who uses, research, and tests products and theories to help others improve their mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. With her own eating disorder journey, regulating her hormones, and working with 10+ nutritionists, she deeply understands the health and wellness. Sophi is also well-knowledged in self-development and committed to sharing her knowledge, experience, and expertise with her readers.

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