About this Episode

    Have you ever driven along the coastline, or walked by a local pond or lake and thought about taking a dip, but felt hesitant about swimming in what you know is cold water? My guest today, who argues that cold water swimming is one of the very best things you can do for your mental and physical health, will inspire you to finally take the plunge.

    His name is Dr. Mark Harper and he’s an anesthesiologist and the author of Chill: The Cold Water Swim Cure. We begin our conversation with how Mark’s research into the prevention of hypothermia during surgery led him to investigate the benefits of cold water exposure in managing the body’s overall stress response. We discuss the effect cold water has on the body, and the potential mental and physical benefits this effect can have, from reducing inflammation, to reducing depression caused by inflammation, to improving conditions from diabetes to migraines. We get into how long you need to be in the water to get these benefits, and the temperature the water needs to be, which may not be as cold as you think, and potentially makes, depending on where you live, cold water swimming viable as a year-round practice. Mark also explains how to get started with cold water swimming, and do it safely and effectively, including why you should start in the summer, and how best to prepare your body before you get in the water and recover after you get out of it. We end our conversation with whether or not you can get the same benefits of cold water swimming from taking an ice bath or cold shower.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Cold water swimming can reduce inflammation, alleviate depression, improve conditions like diabetes and migraines, and boost mental and physical well-being. Prepare your body, ease into it, and recover properly after each swim.
    • Controlled exposure to cold water can strengthen the body's stress response, reduce inflammation, and potentially aid in managing depression. Regular exposure is necessary for optimal results.
    • Regularly swimming in cold water can reduce stress and inflammation in the body, similar to how a workout strengthens the body without causing harm. Cold water exposure has been praised for its healing properties throughout history, and recent research has shed light on its physiological effects.
    • Jumping into cold water triggers immediate physiological responses including the shutting down of blood vessels, increased heart rate, urination, hyperventilation, and a release of stress hormones. However, with adaptation, these responses become less intense. Cold water swimming provides a unique cardiovascular workout and elicits complex physiological changes in the body.
    • Regular exposure to cold water can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and potentially aid in managing type two diabetes. However, caution should be taken to avoid hypothermia.
    • Cold water swimming has been found to be an effective and alternative method for reducing inflammation and alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety.
    • Cold water swimming has the potential to reduce inflammation and reset abnormal circuits in the brain, making it a valuable alternative approach for individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and more.
    • Cold water swimming can potentially reduce migraines and provide mental and electronic circuit reset. It can be practiced in any season in safe bodies of water, providing social and psychological benefits.
    • Participating in group activities can reduce social isolation, improve mental well-being, and maintaining core body warmth is crucial when swimming. Start slow and focus on your breath.
    • Cold water swimming for a short duration can improve physical and mental well-being, but warming up and avoiding hot showers is crucial.
    • Cold water swimming offers mental and physical health benefits, and even if you don't have access to cold water, alternatives like ice baths can still provide similar advantages.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Discover the Surprising Mental and Physical Benefits of Cold Water Swimming

    Cold water swimming can have significant mental and physical benefits. Dr. Mark Harper, an anesthesiologist and author of "Chill: The Cold Water Swim Cure," explains how his research into preventing hypothermia during surgery led him to uncover the benefits of cold water exposure in managing overall stress response. Cold water swimming has been found to reduce inflammation, alleviate depression caused by inflammation, and improve conditions such as diabetes and migraines. Contrary to popular belief, the water doesn't need to be as cold as one might think to reap these benefits. Cold water swimming can be practiced year-round, and it's important to ease into it, prepare your body, and recover properly afterward. While ice baths and cold showers have some similar benefits, they may not provide the same overall advantages as cold water swimming. So, if you're looking for a natural way to boost your mental and physical well-being, taking a dip in cold water may be worth considering.

    The Surprising Power of Cold Water: Reduce Stress and Inflammation

    Exposure to cold water can have positive effects on the body's stress response and inflammation levels. While hypothermia is typically harmful, controlled exposure to cold water can help the body adapt and become more resilient to stressors, including those experienced during surgery. Cold water swimming can potentially reduce complications following surgery by reducing the stress response and inflammation. Additionally, research suggests a connection between inflammation and depression, and cold water swimming may offer benefits in managing depression by lowering inflammation levels. It's important to note that regular cold water exposure is necessary to experience these physiological effects, and the water doesn't need to be extremely cold, as anything below 20 degrees centigrade can have a significant impact.

    Discover the Surprising Benefits of Regularly Immersing Yourself in Cold Water!

    Regularly immersing oneself in cold water can lead to adaptations that reduce the stress response and inflammation in the body. When entering cold water multiple times, the sympathetic response to stress decreases. This helps maintain stress and inflammation at a healthy level instead of reaching pathological levels. Additionally, putting your face in cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, further reducing inflammation. This double effect from swimming in cold water is beneficial for overall well-being. It is comparable to working out at the gym, where the right level of effort strengthens the body without causing injury. Cold water exposure has been recognized for its benefits throughout history, with medical figures like Hippocrates and Richard Russell advocating for its healing properties. Recent research has provided a deeper understanding of the physiological effects of cold water on the body.

    You Won't Believe What Happens When You Jump Into Cold Water!

    Jumping into cold water triggers various physiological responses in our bodies. When we enter cold water, the blood vessels to our skin immediately shut down, redirecting circulation to the main part of our body. This causes the heart to expand, releasing a hormone called atrial natriuretic peptide that makes us want to urinate. Additionally, the nervous system reacts by causing us to hyperventilate and experience a gasping response, similar to a panic attack. Despite these initial reactions, adapting to cold water leads to less intense responses. Cold water immersion also triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol and affects insulin levels. The exact mechanisms responsible for the euphoric feeling after cold water exposure remain unclear but may involve brain chemistry and a reset of brain function. Overall, cold water swimming provides a unique cardiovascular workout and elicits complex physiological changes in our bodies.

    Discover the Surprising Benefits of Cold Water Immersion!

    Regularly exposing the body to cold water can have positive effects on insulin sensitivity and inflammation levels. Cold water immersion initially has a negative impact on insulin levels, but with adaptation, the body becomes more sensitive to insulin, which can aid in treating type two diabetes. When entering cold water, there is a mild inflammation response, but with regular exposure, it helps keep inflammation at a manageable level. Additionally, the diving reflex when putting the face in cold water stimulates the vagal nerve, resulting in a reduction of inflammation. It is important to prepare and avoid becoming hypothermic by limiting the time spent in extremely cold waters. Warning signs of hypothermia include clawing of the hands and difficulties with coordination and clear thinking.

    Find out how cold water swimming can cure depression!

    Cold water swimming has shown remarkable results in helping people with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The connection between inflammation and depression led Mark Harper to explore the potential benefits of cold water swimming. Through a collaboration with experts in extreme physiology, they designed an adaptation program for a young woman who was struggling with depression. After just a few months of regular cold water swimming, she was able to stop taking medication and maintain her mental well-being. Inspired by this success, Mark Harper and his team conducted further research and gathered a group of individuals with clinical depression and anxiety. The results were astonishing, with a 70% recovery rate for both anxiety and depression. This unconventional approach to reducing inflammation provides an alternative and effective method for alleviating depressive symptoms.

    Discover the surprising link between cold water swimming and mental health!

    Cold water swimming may have a positive impact on reducing inflammation, which can be beneficial for individuals with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, arthritis, Crohn's disease, and fibromyalgia. While the specific mechanisms behind this are still speculative and on the cutting edge of research, it is believed that the cold exposure may reset abnormal circuits in the brain and potentially help reset the nervous system. Additionally, cold water swimming offers other benefits such as being outdoors in nature, being with other people, and engaging in exercise. Therefore, for individuals who have tried traditional treatments without success, focusing on reducing inflammation through cold water swimming may be a valuable approach to consider.

    Discover the shocking benefits of cold water swimming!

    Cold water swimming has a variety of benefits, including the potential reduction of migraines and the resetting of the mind and electronic circuits. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, cold water swimming has shown positive effects for individuals like Beth who suffered from frequent migraines. It is important to note that cold water swimming can be practiced year-round in temperate climates and can be done in various bodies of water such as lakes, streams, or even the ocean. When starting cold water swimming, it is recommended to find a safe location and go with a friend for added safety. Additionally, being around others can also provide social and psychological benefits.

    Discover the surprising benefits of group activities like swimming!

    Participating in group activities can help reduce social isolation and provide a sense of shared euphoria. Whether it's swimming or any other group activity, the laughter and bonding created during these experiences can be beneficial for mental well-being. Before jumping into cold water, it's important to warm up your body to prevent hypothermia. Keeping your core warm is crucial to maintaining your vital organ function. Additionally, when starting out, it's recommended to ease into the water slowly to avoid conflicting signals and potential dangers. The duration of a swim depends on the temperature, but the focus should be on getting your breath back rather than staying in for a specific amount of time.

    Swim in Cold Water for 3 Minutes and See the Magic Happen!

    Cold water swimming can have numerous benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Mark Harper suggests that a short exposure of about three minutes in cold water, even during winter, can make you feel good and help alleviate feelings of coldness in the body. It is also important to warm up after a cold water swim, preferably by engaging in exercise such as running or cycling. Additionally, going into a sauna after a cold water swim is safe and can help further warm up the body. However, caution should be exercised with hot showers, as they can potentially damage the skin. While cold showers or ice baths can provide some benefits, the full benefits of cold water swimming may not be replicated. Ultimately, engaging in cold water swims, if done safely, can offer a range of advantages for individuals.

    Discover the Surprising Benefits of Cold Water Swimming Today!

    Swimming outdoors, particularly in cold water, has numerous benefits for both mental and physical health. Being in nature and participating in a community activity have been shown to positively impact mental health and boost overall well-being. The view of water alone can bring mental health benefits, while the exercise involved in swimming provides additional advantages. Even if cold water isn't readily accessible, ice baths or other creative solutions can still yield similar benefits. It's important to explore and support organizations that promote the benefits of cold water swimming, such as mentalhealthswims.co.uk, chilluk.org, and seashore.org. So, whether you're dipping into the ocean or enjoying an ice bath in Tahiti, consider incorporating cold water swimming into your routine for a well-rounded therapeutic experience.

    Recent Episodes from The Art of Manliness

    Embracing the Strive State

    Embracing the Strive State

    We often think happiness will be found in the completion of a goal. We often think happiness will be found in ease and comfort. My guest says real joy is found in the journey rather than the destination, and that if difficulty and discomfort are part of that journey, that's all the better.

    Dr. Adam Fraser is a peak performance researcher and the author of Strive: Embracing the Gift of Struggle. Today on the show, we talk about what Adam calls the "strive state," where we have to grow and be courageous to tackle a meaningful challenge, and why this state is the source of the greatest fulfillment in life. We discuss why we often resist embracing the strive state and what happens when we don't have to struggle in life. We also talk about what successful strivers do differently.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Adam Fraser

    Book cover of
    The Art of Manliness
    enMay 15, 2024

    The Dude's Guide to Laundry: How to Save Time, Money, and Your Wardrobe

    The Dude's Guide to Laundry: How to Save Time, Money, and Your Wardrobe

    If you didn’t grow up doing your own laundry, once you headed out on your own, you probably just figured things out on the fly, hoped for the best, and have been doing things the same way ever since. But, while you may be getting the job done okay, you also might be making some mistakes that are costing you time, money, and cleaner clothes.

    In this episode from the Art of Manliness department of essential life skills, we’ll cover all the things you should have learned as a young man but never did, and how to do your laundry effectively. Our guide is Patric Richardson, aka the “Laundry Evangelist,” a laundry expert who runs how-to-do-laundry camps, hosts the television show The Laundry Guy, and is the author of Laundry Love. Today on the show, Patric shares the one cycle and water temperature you should use for all of your clothes, exactly how much detergent you should be using (which is a lot less than you think), how often you should wash your clothes (which is less often than you think), why you shouldn’t ever use dryer sheets (and what to throw in your dryer instead), how regardless of what the tag says, you can wash anything at home (including a wool suit), how to easily get rid of stains (including yellow pit stains), and many more tips that will save you time, money, and hassle in doing your laundry.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Patric Richardson

    The Art of Manliness
    enMay 13, 2024

    How to Get Better at Anything

    How to Get Better at Anything

    Life revolves around learning—in school, at our jobs, even in the things we do for fun. But we often don’t progress in any of these areas at the rate we’d like. Consequently, and unfortunately, we often give up our pursuits prematurely or resign ourselves to always being mediocre in our classes, career, and hobbies.

    Scott Young has some tips on how you can avoid this fate, level up in whatever you do, and enjoy the satisfaction of skill improvement. Scott is a writer, programmer, and entrepreneur, and the author of Get Better at Anything: 12 Maxims for Mastery. Today on the show, Scott shares the three key factors in helping us learn. He explains how copying others is an underrated technique in becoming a genius, why, contrary to the sentiments of motivational memes, we learn more from success than mistakes, why experts often aren’t good teachers and tactics for drawing out their best advice, why you may need to get worse before you get better, and more.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Scott Young

    Podcast #989 featuring the book cover of

    Of Strength and Soul — Exploring the Philosophy of Physical Fitness

    Of Strength and Soul — Exploring the Philosophy of Physical Fitness

    When you’re lifting weights, you might be thinking about setting a new PR or doing your curls for the girls.

    But throughout history, philosophers have thought about physical fitness on a deeper level and considered how exercise shapes not only the body, but also the mind and the soul.

    My guest today, Joe Lombardo, is a strength enthusiast who follows in this tradition and has explored the philosophy of bodily exercise in his writing. Today on the show, Joe and I discuss several different ways the philosophy of strength has been expressed over time.

    We begin our conversation with how the ancient Greeks thought of physical training as a way to develop personal as well as social virtues, and why they thought you were an "idiot," in their particular sense of the word, if you didn't take care of your body. We then discuss early Christianity's relationship with physical exercise and the development of the muscular Christianity movement in the 19th century. We end our conversation by looking at the philosophy of physicality espoused by the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, and what he had to say as to how strength training moves us out of the life of the night and towards the light of the sun.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Joe Lomabrdo

    The No-BS Secrets of Success

    The No-BS Secrets of Success

    Jim VandeHei didn’t have an auspicious start in life. His high school guidance counselor told him he wasn’t cut out for college, and he went on to confirm her assessment, getting a 1.4 GPA at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and spending more time drinking beer than planning his career.

    Eventually, though, Jim turned things around for himself, going on to co-found two of the biggest modern media outlets, Politico and Axios.

    Jim shares how he started moving up the rungs of success and building a better life for himself in his new book Just the Good Stuff: No-BS Secrets to Success (No Matter What Life Throws at You). Today on the show, Jim shares the real-world lessons he’s learned in his career. We discuss the importance of matching passion to opportunity, making your own luck, surrounding yourself with the right people, keeping the buckets of your happiness matrix filled, understanding the difference between wartime and peacetime leadership, harnessing the energy of healthy revenge, and more.

    Connect With Jim VandeHei

    Book cover for


    How to Eliminate the Two Biggest Sources of Financial Stress

    How to Eliminate the Two Biggest Sources of Financial Stress

    There are different philosophies one can have when it comes to money. Jared Dillian’s is built around eliminating as much anxiety around it as possible, so you hardly think about money at all.

    Jared is a former trader for Lehman Brothers, the editor of The Daily Dirtnap, a market newsletter for investment professionals, and the author of No Worries: How to Live a Stress-Free Financial Life. Today on the show, Jared talks about the two biggest sources of financial stress — debt and risk — and how you can eliminate the stress they can cause. We discuss how three big financial decisions — buying a car, buying a house, and managing student loans — ultimately determine your financial health, and how to approach each of them in a stress-eliminating way. We also talk about how to minimize risk by creating what he calls an “awesome portfolio,” a mix of assets that has nearly the return of the stock market with half its risk. And Jared shares whether cryptocurrency fits into his “no worries” financial philosophy.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Jared Dillian

    Cover of the book

    The Secret World of Bare-Knuckle Boxing

    The Secret World of Bare-Knuckle Boxing

    Have you ever noticed the guy in a fighting stance on the Art of Manliness logo? That’s not just some random symbol; it’s an actual dude: John L. Sullivan, the greatest bare-knuckle boxer of the 19th century.

    While most people think bare-knuckle boxing came to an end during Sullivan’s era, in fact, it never entirely went away. In his new book, Bare Knuckle: Bobby Gunn, 73–0 Undefeated. A Dad. A Dream. A Fight Like You’ve Never Seen, Stayton Bonner charts bare-knuckle boxing’s rise, fall, and resurgence, as well as the improbable story of its modern chapter’s winningest champion. Today on the show, Stayton describes bare-knuckle boxing’s incredible popularity a century ago, and why gloved boxing took its place while bare-knuckle got pushed into a shadowy, illicit underground. Stayton takes us into that secret circuit which still exists today, revealing the dark, sweaty basements and bars where modern bare-knuckle fights take place and the ancient code of honor that structures them. And Stayton introduces us to a dominant figure in that world, Bobby Gunn, an undefeated bare-knuckle fighter who combines a love of faith, family, and fighting and has helped turn bare-knuckle boxing into what is now the world’s fastest-growing combat sport.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Stayton Bonner

    Book cover of

    Why Your Memory Seems Bad (It’s Not Just Age)

    Why Your Memory Seems Bad (It’s Not Just Age)

    Do you sometimes walk to another room in your house to get something, but then can’t remember what it was you wanted? Do you sometimes forget about an appointment or struggle to remember someone’s name?

    You may have chalked these lapses in memory up to getting older. And age can indeed play a role in the diminishing power of memory. But as my guest will tell us, there are other factors at play as well.

    Charan Ranganath is a neuroscientist, a psychologist, and the author of Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold on to What Matters. Today on the show, Charan explains how factors like how we direct our attention, take photos, and move through something called “event boundaries” all affect our memory, and how our current context in life impacts which memories we’re able to recall from the past. We also talk about how to reverse engineer these factors to improve your memory.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Charan Ranganath

    Book cover titled

    Grid-Down Medicine — A Guide for When Help Is NOT on the Way

    Grid-Down Medicine — A Guide for When Help Is NOT on the Way

    If you read most first aid guides, the last step in treating someone who’s gotten injured or sick is always: get the victim to professional medical help.

    But what if you found yourself in a situation where hospitals were overcrowded, inaccessible, or non-functional? What if you found yourself in a grid-down, long-term disaster, and you were the highest medical resource available?

    Dr. Joe Alton is an expert in what would come after the step where most first aid guides leave off. He’s a retired surgeon and the co-author of The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Help is NOT on the Way. Today on the show, Joe argues that every family should have a medical asset and how to prepare to be a civilian medic. We discuss the different levels of first aid kits to consider creating, from an individual kit all the way up to a community field hospital. And we talk about the health-related skills you might need in a long-term grid-down disaster, from burying a dead body, to closing a wound with super glue, to making an improvised dental filling, to even protecting yourself from the radiation of nuclear fallout.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Joe Alton

    Cover of


    Skills Over Pills

    Skills Over Pills

    Over the last decade, there's been an increase in the number of people, particularly young adults, who struggle with low moods, distractibility, and anxiety and consequent difficulties with getting their life on track and making progress in work, friendship, and romance.

    In addressing these difficulties, people are often given or adopt a mental health diagnosis, and look for a solution in therapy and/or medication.

    My guest isn't opposed to these remedies. She is herself a clinical psychologist who's maintained a practice for a quarter century that specializes in treating clients in their twenties. But Dr. Meg Jay, who's also the author of The Twentysomething Treatment, believes that a lot of what young adults, and in fact adults of all ages, struggle with, aren't disorders that need to be treated, but problems that can be solved.

    In the first half of our conversation, Meg explains what's behind the decline in mental health for young adults and how it's bigger than just smartphones. We discuss the dangers of self-diagnosis, the potential downsides of using medications to treat mental health issues, and why she advocates for "skills over pills." In the second half of our conversation, we talk about how mental health gets better when we get better at life, and what skills twentysomethings, and many older adults, need to develop, including the skills of thinking, feeling, working, socializing, and even cooking. We also discuss how porn is affecting the young men in her practice and an alternative to being a self-assurance junkie.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

    Connect With Meg Jay

    Book cover featuring the title