Go Swimming…In Winter: Unlock Untapped Energy With Cold Water Health

Quick Summary

  • Regularly exposing yourself to cold water can help fight depression and improve your metabolic function.
  • It can also reduce your risk of exposure to sickness and several chronic problems.
  • Cold water exposure can send the body into “war mode” and cause a massive boost to your mitochondria – giving you lots of extra energy.
  • You should shoot for water temperatures that are 14 degrees celsius (57.2 degrees fahrenheit) or colder. This can typically be done in the shower or in your local body of water.

cold water health

An Introduction To Cold Water Health

I first heard about cold water health hacking about twelve years ago. A friend claimed he had decreased his frequent bouts of illness by ending his showers with 45 seconds of the coldest water he could get from the shower head.

(And in Maine that can be pretty cold.)

At the time we were both more interested in skateboarding then actually finding out if he was right or not.

Fast forward to the present where I am elated to spend hours pouring through dozens of technical papers, and…it turns out he was right.

He’s a pharmacist now. Funny how our roles have reversed. He’s slinging pills and I’m the one preaching the homeopathic remedies.

We had no idea at the time, but my friend was actually using a form of hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy is the use of water (or ice, or steam in a sauna) for promoting health and treatment of disease, illness, or condition. 1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/ 2)https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-shower-benefits#takeaway 3)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030698770700566X

Cold water health, and exposing myself to very cold water every day, is one of my absolute favorite strategies to stimulate my mitochondria output (I’ll get to that), get an energy boost, and kick my body into high gear.


How Cold Water Health Works

Sudden exposure to cold water (the shower, or swimming) causes an immediate state of panic in your body. This rapid and drastic change of environment condition puts your body into War Mode.

In an action movie it’s the scene where cowboys circle up the wagons, soldiers pile up sandbags, Yoda takes off his coat, fighter pilots sprint to the jets…you get the idea. Your body immediately goes on the defense to the perceived threat of cold water immersion.

This state of defense is called hormesis. The technical definition of hormesis is…

“…a phenomenon in which a harmful substance gives stimulating and beneficial effects to living organisms when the quantity of the harmful substance is small.” 4)Handbook of Toxicology of Chemical Warfare Agents (Second Edition), 2015

Using the state of hormesis to your advantage isn’t damaging or harmful to your health. It’s comparable to stomping on the accelerator of a racecar. The engine (your body) was designed to instantly produce more power, it just needs external input onto the gas pedal (sudden stress, like very cold water).

(It’s really hard to find cold water, even in the shower, when you’re visiting the Pacific Rim for several weeks…I can’t wait to get home!)

This process works because of thermogenesis, which is your body creating extra own heat in direct response to the sudden threat of cold. 5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5617911/

This affects your mitochondria in a significant way.


Cold Water Health And Mitochondria

I talk about mitochondria all the time because they ultimately determine how much energy you have at any given moment. They’re like your batteries, so maximizing your mitochondria’s output will raise your overall energy levels.

(You’ve probably heard me say that the secret to life is having lots of energy to crush it at your job and have as much fun as you can squeeze into a day.)

Joseph Mercola, MD, and homeopathic superstar, suggests that you may have up to 50 quadrillion mitochondria.

“Mitochondria are the energy generators in your cells. While you have about 35 trillion bacteria and as many cells in our body, you have about 500 to 1,000 times more mitochondria. Estimates suggest you may have anywhere from 15 to 50 quadrillion mitochondria.” 6)https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/05/01/health-benefits-extreme-hot-cold-temperatures.aspx

You can see how increasing your mitochondria output even a small amount can be multiplied across many quadrillion units.

Sudden exposure to cold water creates a type of non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) that uses mitochondria to produce heat (and energy) by speeding up their metabolic process. Interestingly, all types of NSTs are directly associated with mitochondria metabolism. 7)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5617911/

The result is a sustained boost of energy while your body remains on alert.


Cold Water Health From An Expert

In a very informative interview with Dr. Mercola, Rhonda Patrick, PhD, does a beautiful job simplifying the hormesis process and the relationship of cold water to mitochondria.

There are several passages from the interview I want to share with you. You can read the entire 17 page interview transcript by clicking here.

Rhonda Patrick, On Hormesis

“Hormesis, what this refers to is a process of exposing your body to a very short burst of stress, whether that’s exercise, heat, cold, fasting, or resveratrol. Because it’s a short burst of stress, your body reacts to this stress by activating a variety of stress response pathways that we have hardwired and encoded in our genes. It turns them on because they’re thinking, “I got to prepare for war. This is stress. I need to make sure I fight this off.

That’s really one of the main reasons why short bursts of stress are so good for you, because we have so many amazing genes in our body that are so powerful. The problem is that as we age, they don’t become activated as often. We need to find ways to activate them more, to turn them on, so that they’re doing all this good stuff.” 8)http://mercola.fileburst.com/PDF/ExpertInterviewTranscripts/Interview-RhondaPatrick-HealthBenefitsOfExtremeHotAndColdTemperatures.pdf


Rhonda Patrick, On Mitochondria

Dr. Patrick goes on to explain the importance of mitochondria and why one of your main focuses should be maximizing their energy output – allowing all the organs, including the brain, to function at its full potential.

She also beings going into detail about the importance of mitochondrial biogenesis.

Mitochondrial biogenesis is an intricate component in overall energy production. Its defined as “the proliferation [rapid increase in numbers] of preexisting mitochondria and is an essential cellular response to energy status. 9)https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/mitochondrial-biogenesis

“When you start to cool your body, your body freaks out, and it says, “I got to gather all my troops. I got to do everything I can to fight this war, so that I stay alive.” One of the ways it does that is by increasing mitochondria in multiple tissues. It also does it in the muscle. You actually make more mitochondria in the muscle. This happens through PGC-1alpha.

You’re also making more mitochondria in the muscle which is really good for multiple reasons. Obviously, the more mitochondria you have, the more energy you can produce, the more muscle mass you can maintain. These things are all very good. But I do think the cold itself is probably one of the most potent stimulators of mitochondrial biogenesis.

I do think that mitochondrial biogenesis is a very important function in our body because, as you mentioned, the mitochondria are what’s generating all the energy that every single organ in our body is using to do its function.

Whether we’re talking about our brains, that our brain can function; our heart, so our heart can beat and pump blood throughout our bodies, so our blood cells can bring oxygen to our tissues; or our lungs, so we can breathe in oxygen – all these, everything that your body is doing on a daily basis is being run on the fact that these mitochondria are producing energy.

The more mitochondria you have, the better. Also, as we age, we tend to lose more. The mitochondria become damaged. They’re very susceptible to damage, because they are generating energy. This process also generates byproducts that damage the mitochondria themselves. It’s really nice if you can get rid of the old damaged mitochondria and bring in new ones that are younger.

This mitochondrial biogenesis is very important. You actually did hit four different means or modalities of increasing mitochondrial biogenesis. If I were to rank them, I think that I will probably say the cold… Exposing our body to extreme temperature changes, either cold or hot, I would say cold probably is no.1 for increasing mitochondrial biogenesis.” 10)http://mercola.fileburst.com/PDF/ExpertInterviewTranscripts/Interview-RhondaPatrick-HealthBenefitsOfExtremeHotAndColdTemperatures.pdf


Rhonda Patrick, On Cold Health Benefits

Everything comes together when you purposefully use hormesis and mitochondria biogenesis together. The stress of sudden temperature change causes several interesting metabolic effects in your body.

“I love these hormetic stressors and temperature changes. It’s sort of one of my little pet interests. Exposing your body to cold also has a lot of positive benefits. It’s been popularized, at least, by the media that cold exposure is like this hack that you can do to help you burn more fat. I think that’s probably what most people associate sitting in an ice bath or taking a cold shower is doing. They’re like, “Oh, I’m going to increase my metabolism to burn more fat.

Because when you’re cold, when your body is cold, what it wants to do is get warm. It wants to basically stay alive. It doesn’t want to die. You don’t want to get hypothermic. There’s a very profound response mechanism that occurs when you cool the body. That is your body makes the production of a hormone and a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. It produces norepinephrine in the brain, which is involved in focus and attention.

It also improves mood. It’s often used to treat depression as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But in the body when you make it, it acts as a hormone. It does a lot of things. It causes vasoconstriction. The reason it does that is your body is trying to conserve heat.

This is one of the ways your body goes, “OK. I’m cold. I’m going to conserve heat,” increases norepinephrine and norepinephrine then causes vasoconstriction, which then uses less heat. You’re basically conserving what you have. The other thing that norepinephrine does is it’s a signaling molecule to basically make more mitochondria. It causes your body to make more mitochondria in your fat tissue. Because your fat tissue, that’s your reserve stores; that’s your energy reserve.

That’s where you have your reserves for energy. Your body wants to make energy because when you make energy, the byproduct of energy is heat. Your body goes, “OK. Time to ramp up fat metabolism, because I need some of that heat to warm myself.” The way it does it is by increasing the norepinephrine, norepinephrine sends a signal to your fat cells, and your fat cells activate a gene called uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1).” 11)http://mercola.fileburst.com/PDF/ExpertInterviewTranscripts/Interview-RhondaPatrick-HealthBenefitsOfExtremeHotAndColdTemperatures.pdf


Temperature And Cold Water Health

You may have heard of The Iceman, Wim Hof. He’s become famous for his cold weather accomplishments, including climbing Mt. Everest in a pair of shorts. His method of cold-adaptation improves cognition, circulation, and the immune system. 12)http://www.icemanwimhof.com/innerfire

But you don’t have travel the world and attempt daring feats to reap the benefits of cold water health. It can easily be accomplished at home in the shower, or in your local body of water if the season is right.

In fact, Dr. Patrick suggests you can obtain cold water benefits, mitochondria maximization, and long term health by exposure to 40 degree water for 20 seconds or 57 degree water for a few minutes. 13)http://mercola.fileburst.com/PDF/ExpertInterviewTranscripts/Interview-RhondaPatrick-HealthBenefitsOfExtremeHotAndColdTemperatures.pdf

You may have access to either temperature in the shower, depending on where you live. You can get an estimate of the cold water tap temperatures in your general area by clicking here. Or, a simple thermometer can be even more accurate.

A study of cold water health benefits reveals some very interesting information about the relationship between temperature and metabolism.

Here are the main points:

  1. Immersion in water at 14 degrees celsius (57.2 degrees fahrenheit) can increase metabolic rates by 350%
  2. It can also increase heart rate by 5%, systolic blood pressure by 7%, and diastolic blood pressure by 8%.
  3. Noradrenaline and dopamine concentrations can be increased by 530% and 250%.
  4. Regularly swimming in winter can significantly reduce tension, poor memory, and lousy moods.
  5. It can also relieve pain from rheumatism, fibromyalgia, and asthma.
  6. Regular winter swimming can generally improve the well-being of the swimmer. 14)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/

It’s interesting, and logical, that a sudden immersion into cold water creates such large releases of noradrenaline and dopamine.

Noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine) is a chemical that is released into the bloodstream to help put the body into War Mode. It immediately prepares the body for defensive action, ramps up mitochondria energy output, and increases focus and alertness. 15)https://www.everydayhealth.com/norepinephrine/guide/ 16)http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/medicines/heart-and-blood/a7006/noradrenaline-norepinephrine/ 17)http://www.els.net/WileyCDA/ElsArticle/refId-a0001401.html

Dopamine is a feel-good hormone that creates the feeling of pleasure (a reward) and an inclination to take action toward something (to get the reward). 18)https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/dopamine 19)https://sanusbiotech.com/blogs/news/what-is-dopamine-1 20)https://www.news-medical.net/health/Dopamine-Functions.aspx

Noradrenaline and dopamine are a perfect pairing to deal with a stressful event like the kind involved with cold water health. One puts the body into war mode, and the other gives you a reason to do something about it.

So along with the cold water health benefits mentioned above, you’ll also feel better instantly.



I’m not exactly sure why people go to the doctor to get expensive pills to increase their energy levels. Well…yes I do. It’s easier, and doesn’t require you to make better choices like eating properly, exercising, and getting high quality sleep.

I don’t think pills are the answer for general, long term health. But you know how I feel about that. Health should be fun, simple, easy, delicious, and sustainable. If it’s not enjoyable, it’s not right.

Cold water health is something I love doing every single day. It’s a quick, shocking way to invigorate your body and get a lasting daily dose of energy, focus, and long term health.

Remember these key points the next time you hop in the shower.

  • Regularly exposing yourself to cold water can help fight depression, and improve your metabolic function.
  • It can also reduce your risk of exposure to sickness and several chronic problems.
  • Cold water exposure can send the body into “war mode” and cause a massive boost to your mitochondria – giving you lots of extra energy.
  • You should shoot for water temperatures that are 14 degrees celsius (57.2 degrees fahrenheit) or colder. This can typically be done in the shower.

Let’s talk about it, I’d love to meet you. Send me an email at matt@covertbody.com and introduce yourself, OK?

Chat soon.



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