The Power of Ice Baths: The Surprising Health Benefits for the Mind & Body 

Cold plunge aficionado Cam LaBar shares his experiences with ice baths. 

Cam LaBar
Cam LaBar
 min read
June 27, 2023

The world of wellness is full of trends. From keto diets to the ‘12-3-30’ workout popularized by TikTok, it’s hard to know what really works and what’s just another crazy fad. Over the past few years, ice baths have become one of those things. You’ve probably seen dozens of celebrities and athletes hyping up the benefits of cold plunges, and if you’re like me, you might’ve found yourself wondering: is this really healthy, or is this just one of those short-lived internet things? 

Ice Baths: Just a Fad or Part of a Healthy Lifestyle? 

To get to the bottom of the cold plunge craze, and to find out if submerging yourself in freezing cold water really does anything, I asked Cam LaBar, aka Cold Plunge Cam. While not a doctor, LaBar has been using cold exposure to improve both his mental and physical health over the past few years after dealing with “a bout of serious depression,” he says.

“It caught me off guard,” LaBar continues, sharing how he originally took an interest in cold plunges. “I had dealt with some difficult circumstances growing up – I was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD, and Tourette Syndrome when I was nine – but never had I experienced symptoms so scary. This pushed me to explore any possible outlet I could find that might help me to feel happy again.” 

From there, he began experimenting with ice baths and soon discovered that they provided a “perfect, controlled-stress environment” to help him get comfortable with being uncomfortable. “The most powerful part of cold exposure is learning that I can reframe the way I view stress or discomfort,” LaBar says. “Nobody ‘likes’ the cold at first. And it took some time to appreciate the cold as a useful tool and not just a difficult moment,” he says of the beginnings of his cold exposure journey. 

Image courtesy of Cam LaBar

After consistently adding cold plunges to his routine, LaBar found his mental health became more manageable. Not only was he able to improve his emotional control and mental clarity while submerged in an Ice Barrel, but he was also able to take those lessons and apply them to real-life experiences, such as a car cutting him off or a confrontation with another person, he says. “These are examples of stressful moments where I’ve struggled to maintain mental clarity or control of my emotions. Ice baths are an environment where I can practice my breathing and appreciate the challenge in front of me. I’d argue that the breathwork and mindset exercises I’ve learned from sitting in a 35°F river in February have been transferable skills I’ve used in other areas of my life.” 

While LaBar primarily focuses on the mental benefits of ice baths, there’s also a whole host of physical benefits that come from cold exposure, which include: 

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Enhanced recovery 
  • A boost in metabolism and activation of the “good” brown fat
  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy 

Now keep in mind that these benefits are linked to ice baths, but living an overall healthy lifestyle is going to be key when it comes to seeing a long-term improvement in your mental and physical health. Just as with any wellness trend, typically it doesn’t come down to just making one big change, but instead, many small changes. 

Outside of ice baths and cold exposure, LaBar also recommends supporting your mind and body in three other ways: 

Regular Exercise

“Physical and mental health are so intricately intertwined, but it’s amazing how long it took me to learn that,” LaBar says.

“If I go for a jog or lift weights, I’m almost always in a better mood afterward. There was a recent study that was really intriguing: a meta-analysis concluded that exercise is 1.5 times more effective at reducing mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression, psychological stress, and anxiety than medication or cognitive behavioral therapy.” 


“Nutrition was something that took much longer for me to catch on to. I was a bit skeptical – I didn’t want to believe that certain foods could actually contribute to bouts of anxiety, but there is a cause-and-effect associated with every ingredient you put in your body. Having a nutrient-dense diet filled with real foods is incredibly important. Removing processed foods, oils, and sugar is a big part of that for me, and it’s still something I’m working on.” 

Face-to-Face Interactions

“Similar to nutrition, I underestimated the impact of face-to-face interaction for quite some time,” LaBar says, highlighting a part of a healthy lifestyle that often gets forgotten by many of us, especially in these post-pandemic times. 

LaBar says he “work[s] from home for a large technology company. Occasionally there are days when I’m able to work in the office around others, and on those days, there is a night-and-day difference in how I feel when I finish work. Being able to talk, socialize, and even just make eye contact in person is a major mood-enhancer for me.” 

Ice Baths: How to Start

If you’ve gotten this far, and you’re feeling like cold exposure is something you’d like to try, LaBar recommends firstly “checking with your doctor to see if there are any cardiovascular or preexisting conditions that might make cold exposure a risk for you.” Since your heart rate will spike a bit at the beginning, this is definitely something worth looking into – and honestly should be something you do before embarking on any new diet or exercise trend. 

LaBar then recommends getting started with “a 15-second cold shower. Even this can be intimidating, so breaking it down into a smaller, simpler process will help you get past the paralysis and fear.” 

When you’re ready to progress to a bath, he emphasizes the importance of “finding a temperature that feels uncomfortably cold, but is still safe for you to get into. A good starting point for most individuals is between 50-55°F. A general guideline for length is 2-5 minutes, or just long enough to get your breathing back under control. Temperature and duration vary for everyone, so a good rule of thumb is to listen to your body when it’s time to get out. Most of all, harnessing breathwork and staying in control with slow, deep breaths is crucial for getting through.” 

Want more from Cam? Follow him @coldplungecam, and use code COLDPLUNGECAM for $150 off an Ice Barrel when you get started on your cold plunge journey. 

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