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Cold and Heat Investigation to Lower Levels of Depression

Cold And Heat Investigation To Lower Levels Of Depression

The Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center has received Institutional Review Board approval to launch its first research study, the Cold and Heat Investigation to Lower Levels of Depression (CHILL’D) Study.


Heat has been used throughout history for emotional and physical healing. Recent research exploring the benefits of Whole-Body Hyperthermia (WBH) for major depressive disorder has shown fewer depressive symptoms after treatment. Studies also suggest that hot baths can help improve mood in depressed individuals.

Cold plunges, also known as cold water immersion therapy, have also been studied for potential benefits on mental health. A cold plunge may trigger the release of endorphins, which can induce feelings of well-being and reduce pain perception. Additionally, this chilly encounter may stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in heightened alertness and a boost in energy levels, potentially mitigating the sense of fatigue often linked with depression.

Despite these promising findings, the combination of WBH and cold plunge has never been studied before in the context of depression, and there’s still much to learn about how WBH and cold plunges can be used as alternative treatments for depression.


Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center’s CHILL’D Study will generate invaluable insights about whether WBH can complement or enhance the effects of antidepressants. The study will explore the following critical questions:

  1. Do patients on antidepressants get as much therapeutic benefit from WBH as depressed patients who are not on an antidepressant?
  2. Can we improve the antidepressant efficacy of WBH by adding a cold plunge to the procedure?

The CHILL’D Study launches this month. The results will be publicly available to offer guidance on applying WBH as a treatment for depression in the mountain communities we serve and worldwide.

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