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health benefits of ice bath for athletes

Ice Baths: Benefits, Risks and How-To

  • Last Updated: 13th July 2021
  • Health

The benefits of ice baths have long been hailed by those primarily involved in the sports and athletic industry; with many people claiming they present one of the most efficient and effective ways to ease post-workout aches and pains.

Often prescribed by trainers and sports therapists in occasions of strained physical injuries, ice bath benefits are said to: assist in post-workout recovery, reduce muscular stress and decrease inflammation. But aside from the advantages it offers to athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, could we all benefit from the occasional plunge?

In this guide, we’ll explore how to make the perfect ice bath that benefits our health, as well as the most commonly talked about points around ice bath benefits, including:  

Contents:

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What Is An Ice Bath?

Like we said, sports professionals and avid trainers are amongst the minority group that are all too familiar with the benefits of an ice bath. Also known as cold water immersion (CWI), medical professionals have prescribed and advised the use of ice baths for hundreds of years now, but not just for sports-related purposes. 

Other areas in which ice baths offer benefits to are said to be holistic wellness, injury recovery and mental wellbeing.

CWI is a form of cryotherapy (cold therapy), which can be simplified as the general use of low temperatures in medically prescribed therapy. In these scenarios, the body is typically exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes and is most commonly used to treat a variety of tissue lesions. Lesions are abnormal changes in an organ or in tissue that happen as a result of injury or disease.

While the name may be self-explanatory, for reference, an ice bath is a tub filled with water that is between 50-59 degrees fahrenheit (10 - 15 degrees celsius). It requires a person to sit in the bath with the water at chest level and stay there for a time period of between 10 and 15 minutes for optimal results.

It is not necessary for the water to be below the 10 degrees celsius mark, as this suggested temperature allows for all the benefits of an ice bath to be effective without freezing yourself - though please note, this itself may not be particularly pleasant!

How Do Ice Baths Work?

Ice baths work to change the way the blood and other fluids move through the body and with this comes a direct reduction in inflammation and offers assistance in recovery processes.

The temperature of the ice bath water encourages the body's blood vessels to constrict, and then on removal from the bath, the blood vessel will then dilate (open back up). This process is effective in flushing away the metabolic waste created post-workout, this waste is what causes our bodies to ache following a tough workout, as when we exercise the body produces substances such as lactic acid. 

The body makes lactic acid when it is low in the oxygen it requires to convert glucose into energy. Lactic acid buildup results in muscle pain, cramps, and muscular fatigue, all of which can be combated through the process of flushing away metabolic waste.

The process of causing the blood vessels to constrict (become smaller) which ice baths promote work to reduce swelling, and in turn reduce pain.  Cold also slows down the speed at which nerves send messages, which is another way in which pain is reduced.

Immersing the body in cold water is a more efficient way of cooling down multiple groups of muscles at the same time.  Just like an ice pack, it reduces swelling and muscle damage from exercise by constricting blood vessels and decreasing metabolic activity.  

It also reduces strain on the cardiovascular system and brings down hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), which can reduce fatigue.  For both local icing and ice bath immersion, another beneficial part of the process comes after the cold stimulus has been removed.  During this warming period, there is a return of fresh blood to the body, which floods the cells with nutrients and oxygen, and helps to flush out the waste products of tissue breakdown.

It is important that the body carries out the process of removing metabolic waste and encourages a faster and more efficient flow of this as this promotes healthier muscles and reduces the chances of fatigue during exercise. Increased removal also reduces general pain and effects of surgery also - a benefit many would benefit from at some point. 

While your heart constantly moves blood around your body, your lymph nodes don’t have a pump. Ice baths constrict and open vessels manually, which helps stagnant fluids in your lymph nodes move throughout your body. Increased blood flow also floods your cells with nutrients and oxygen to theoretically help your body recover, adds Clayton.

Additionally, ice baths challenge your body by being exposed to different stresses and stimuli, which is suggested to make you more resilient and prepares you for a number of different challenges and occurrences that may arise in the future. 

What Are the Benefits of Ice Baths?

Professional athletes and fitness fanatics swear by them (quite literally, by all accounts!). Others run a mile after they’ve dared to dip a toe into the water. There is a clear divide over who does and doesn’t use an ice bath, but are those who refuse missing out? 

Below, we explain the brrr-illiant benefits of an ice bath in detail, to shed a little more light on the subject.

#1 Boosts Metabolism and Weight Loss

In order to lose weight, many of us put our body through unappealing experiences, such as reducing our favourite foods, over exercising, fad diets, the list goes on. But what if we told you there is positive science that suggests taking ice baths weekly csn independently work to increase fat loss as well as boost our metabolism. 

How do ice baths benefit weight loss? The science lies in how cold temperatures can change the type of fat that our bodies produce, replacing white fat with brown. This is significant as brown fat is in fact what prompts the body to burn extra calories and is much easier to burn off. You can read more about the types of body fat here. 

Brown fat is only activated when you get cold and is responsible for increasing the metabolic process. In order to combat the cold, it works to produce heat to help maintain your body temperature. It contains may more mitochondria (the powerhouses of cells) than other forms of body fat. The mitochondria in brown fat are the "engines" that burn calories to produce heat. 

In short, the more calories we burn, the more effective this is for both our metabolic system and, of course, weight loss. In order to achieve a healthy weight loss, a calorie deficit is often recommended, tis can be achieved by reducing the calories we consume via food, as well as performing more exercise that in turn burns more calories. 

There are a great number of available studies that present supporting evidence for this also, with a study on the metabolic system of humans found that cold exposure helps white fat act more like brown fat. Additionally, brown fat gain is associated with better insulin sensitivity.

So where do ice baths come into this? Well, they can help encourage this process by supplying the cold aid needed to convert the white fat into brown fat - in turn eating up the body and burning more calories effectively and safely. 

#2 Eases Symptoms of Depression

If you ever jumped into an ice cold pool early in the morning on holiday just before the sun’s heat has had time to warm it up, or not realised the shower setting was set to freezing then you will be familiar with the shock of the temperature that can cause a sudden energised feeling.

This energising shock is caused by a release of catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline) and endorphins which comes as a direct response to the cold; it is essentially an adrenaline rush. It’s basically an adrenaline rush.

But the benefits of an ice bath on our mental health extends far beyond a temporary adrenaline boost, with some science even suggesting that cold showers/other forms of cold therapy could act as potential treatment in those who suffer from depression.

The most significant findings for this emerge from a 2008 study in the Medical Hypotheses Journal, where researchers observed that through the act of cold hydrotherapy, such as ice baths, it presented an effective option as a natural mood booster, as well as pain reliever and anxiety reducer. 

This is owing to the role cold temperatures have in increasing the blood levels of beta-endorphin, a peptide neurotransmitter and hormone produced by the pituitary gland that plays a role in the positive effects exercise can have on mood. Beta-endorphins have also been linked with food intake, sexual behavior and promoting pleasure and happiness.

Additionally, in the same study researchers highlighted that CWI and ice baths benefit the brain’s release of noradrenaline, which is the brain chemical that is typically notably low in those diagnosed with depression.

The effects that an ice bath can have on how we think and feel can also be found and redeemed from the mental health benefits of running.

While we can not suggest that ice baths can single-handedly cure depression and mood disorders, there is significant evidence to suggest it can assist in easing the symptoms associated with it and present a mood booster.

#3 Eases Muscle Soreness and Faster Recovery

The benefits of ice baths in relation to post-workout recovery, muscle soreness and fatigue are perhaps the most commonly recognised uses for CWI and what most people will generally associate it with.

The reason this method has been used by athletes and sportsmen for hundreds of years is owing to the role cold temperatures are said to play in reducing swelling and the buildup of lactic acid. Though lactic acid is not always a bad thing, and can actually be quite useful to the body, a buildup of it can present its own list of disadvantages. 

For reference, when you engage in intense exercise, your body undergoes many biochemical processes in order to keep you energised. In everyday circumstances, the body produces energy through a process which relies on oxygen to convert food into fuel, however, when we exercise, the muscles require more oxygen than we can typically breathe in. With this the muscles will begin to rely on anaerobic respiration (an energy producing process that doesn’t require oxygen). Lactic acid is a byproduct of this process.

When lactate builds up in the bloodstream faster than we can burn it off, this is when you become at risk of developing muscle pain, cramps, and muscular fatigue. 

In addition to its role in lactate build up, ice bath benefits also include helping to raise tissue oxygenation which is an important process for muscle repair.  

More simply, when we engage in exercise our muscles become hot and inflamed and therefore following a workout we need to rest and recover in order to cool down. Ice baths present one of the most effective ways to quickly cool down the body. Of course this doesn't remove the importance of rest days and how many you need in order to continue to progress and sustain optimal health.

Earlier we explained the science behind how ice baths cause the blood vessels to constrict and then dilate once the body is removed from the cold water; and with this metabolic waste is flushed away. The removal of metabolic waste  increases the blood flow to your cells with oxygen and nutrients which in turn allows for quicker and more effective recovery as it allows the blood flow to reach and feed the muscles that require it quicker. 

If you’ve ever used an ice pack on a minor injury like a sprain, you already know that ice can quickly cause the affected area to become less painful. This is because cold temperatures have the ability to numb nerve endings, meaning that fewer pain signals get sent to your brain.

For this reason, ice baths can be useful in treating the painful symptoms of arthritis, tendonitis, sciatica, pinched nerves and fibromyalgia.

#4 Decreases Risks of Overheating

One of the more obvious yet underappreciated benefits of an ice bath is the role they play in cooling your body down quicker than most other cool-down methods. 

Exertional heat stroke/hyperthermia is a condition caused by an increase in core body temperature brought on by intense physical activity in hot weather. This can occur in anyone who participated in exercise during particularly hot temperatures, or even in those who work in hot weather conditions. 

Exertional hyperthermia has even been linked as the cause of death in a number of athletes. In a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, researchers stated that taking a cold shower (with the same temperatures recommended for ice baths) can in fact help relieve exertional hyperthermia. 

CWI is highly recommended for those in need of quickly bringing their body temperature down as it is said to be much more effective and work at a much faster rate than if you were to simply rest in a cool environment. 

A 2015 meta-analysis supported this in their study of 19 studies, which concluded that contact with cold water of approximately 10 degrees celsius cooled off overheated people twice as fast as recovery without hydrotherapy.

The key is to immerse as much of your skin as possible. This means dunking your whole body in cold water, not just running your wrists under a cold tap.

Holistically, water acts as a cooling system to prevent overheating; a benefit regularly lauded by those with a keen interest in running in the rain.

#5 Promotes Better Sleeping Pattern

We know this may sound slightly contradictory, as earlier we were explaining how an ice bath can trigger an adrenaline rush, however ice baths can in fact offer benefits to those who struggle with a consistent sleeping pattern. 

Due to the effects cold immersion therapy can have in regulating cortisol levels, this in turn can directly reduce the effects and occurrence of sleep-related disorders, as well as symptoms of depression. 

Cortisol, the hormone we commonly associate with stress, is produced by the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), which is also responsible for helping coordinate our sleep cycles. So, when the HPA axis is disrupted, that could be through illness, chronic stress or even poor nutrition, this can lead to cases of insomnia and other sleep disturbances. 

This implies that if you can regulate the body’s cortisol levels through taking an ice bath, which has been proven to lower cortisol levels, this ultimately maintains the proper function of the HPA axis, in turn allowing for better sleeping routines as well as reduced stress levels.

Additionally, a clinical study showed that cold immersion can lower the stress hormone cortisol by 25-34% helping you to relax and decrease your stress levels; and with that comes a better night’s sleep.

Calming the nervous system plays a vital role in having the ability to relax and enabling your mind and body to unwind ahead of a good night's sleep. 

This is particularly important for sportsmen, athletes or anyone who is regularly active as they require a good night's sleep in order to maintain and achieve their peak performance levels. By helping the central nervous system calm down and achieve better sleep, the benefits of ice baths extend to better moods, improved reaction times and enhanced power in some workouts; all of which equates to better results - but more about that next.

If you're interested in additional sleeping aids to combine with your weekly ice baths, you may be interested in enhancing your body's relaxation through the practise of Yin Yoga; learn everything you need to know here.

#6 Enhances Sports Performance

The benefits of ice baths follow a similar theme and that is one that acts as a huge beneficiary to those within the sports industry or simply anyone who is a fitness enthusiast; it comes as no surprise that this method has been used in sport for hundreds of years.

To achieve the benefits ice baths have on sports performance, contrast to popular belief you do not need to wait until after the workout. Rather, many athletes use the pre-cooling method where they immerse themselves into an ice bath prior to working out, particularly on a hot and humid day that would otherwise take a toll on your performance. 

Similarly to how we mentioned post-workout ice baths cool down the body’s core temperature, the same principle applies pre-workout, too. 

During exercise, heat is created when your muscles make energy. Your body works hard to regulate this temperature change and keep you within a safe range, however that can sometimes become unmanageable when combined with hot weather. This may see you abort your workout earlier than planned to prevent heat exhaustion and also fatigue can arise at a much earlier stage.

Fortunately, jumping in an ice bath for 10-15 minutes before an intense workout on particularly hot and humid days have been shown to reduce the negative impacts of the weather by lowering core body temperature a few degrees, meaning it will take longer for the body’s temperature to become unmanageable and allow for more workout time. 

An ice bath will not make you magically faster or stronger - sadly that comes through the process of hardwork and the benefits of strength training, however it will help you feel better prepared for exercise in hot weather - especially when done regularly.

The benefits of ice baths of sports performance also come as a direct result of other benefits we have previously explored, including: reduced muscle soreness, better sleep and faster recovery - all of which play vital roles in enhanced athletic performance. 

With this being said, we would say for the best results to only do this on a hot day, as otherwise it could present effects of the opposite nature and in turn actually damage your sports performance. 

#7 Boosts Immune System  

Because winter is often the time we get sick, it’s hard to believe that cold can improve the immune system, but the science is all there! 

Interestingly, the results from a trial conducted in the Netherlands found that people who took a cold shower for a minimum of 30 seconds for 30 consecutive days called into work sick 29% less than those who did not during the cold months. The findings also found that this figure increased to 54% less if the subjects engaged in regular exercise.  

The theory for exactly why this was the case is unclear, however the general understanding points towards this: ice baths cause us to shiver, which is an autonomous response in order to keep the body temperature up and warm. It involves a neuroendocrine effect and triggers the body’s ‘fight-or-flight response’, which causes hormones such as the aforementioned cortisol to increase, shortly before we shift to a ‘relaxation response’. 

Additionally, ice baths activate brown fat in the body, which as we mentioned is the ‘good’ fat.

While this doesn’t act as solid evidence for boosting the immune system, the benefits of an ice bath in converting white fat to brown fat can have positive effects on the body’s metabolism, as we know, and in turn reduce the risk of a number of health risks, such as diabetes and obesity. 

Presenting yet another way ice baths benefit the immune system is their role in increasing leukocytes in the body. Leukocytes, more commonly known as white blood cells, help protect the human body against foreign substances, microbes and infectious diseases. 

As humans, it is important that we are always conscious of how we treat our body, and look for ways in which we can better our health if possible. Investing in the market's best vitamins for the immune system is a simple yet effective way in which we can do just that; bettering our health with minimal adjustments made.

Ice baths may even have an effect on cancer cells. Daily brief cold stress (like from a cold bath or shower) has been shown to increase the numbers and activity of cytotoxic T-cells and NK cells. These cells are the major players in preventing and attacking tumor cells.

 

#8 Improves Brain Function 

Easing muscle pain is one thing, but enhancing the function of our brains? That almost sounds surreal, however this is in fact another ice bath benefit. 

CWI and regular ice baths encourage us to focus better. This comes as a result of the catecholamine that is released in the body during the bath. You may not know what catecholamines are by name, however you will certainly be familiar with some of them; they are hormones made by your adrenaline lands, with the most notable being: adrenaline (epinephrine), dopamine and norepinephrine.

When we are exposed to cold, particularly in the form of an ice bath, it activates our sympathetic nervous system - this is the system that speeds up the heart rate, reduces the secretion of digestive juices, dilates the pupils, speeds up metabolic processes, tightens and strengthen muscles and dilates the airways. 

As well as this, ice baths increase the release of noradrenaline, which prepares the body for action and sharpens focus, as well as boosting adrenaline endorphins, which reduce pain in strained muscles and enables the body to adapt to intense exercise faster. Further, ice baths increase the release of norepinephrine in the brain, which also works to prepare the body for action and blood focus.

On top of this, there is evidence that the cold water in ice baths sends electrical impulses to the brain which presents an antidepressant effect - like a much milder and non-harmful form of electroshock therapy. Similarly, as a result of those impulses it has led many to believe that cold therapy could in fact have antipsychotic effects also by displacing psychotic neurotransmissions - though more research is needed to confirm this.

Since you've gotten this far, we can see you have an interest in the overall health of your body and actively look for ways in which you can improve it. With that, we have the perfect articles for you to check out once you're done learning of all the health benefits of ice baths:

 

#9 Helps With Stress Management 

We have touched on the benefits ice baths have on stress levels throughout this article, but we feel it deserved further explanation as, let's face it, stress is something we all come into contact with at some point.

The ice bath advantages for stress management are owing to how it conditions our body to withstand different levels of stress. CWI therapy and ice baths trigger a number of mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain which, as we’ve mentioned, awaken our natural ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Regularly engaging in ice baths and exposing your body to a different type of stress and stimuli works to make the body more resilient and therefore prepares your ‘fight-or-flight’ for challenges that may arise in the future. 

It also decreases the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are often linked to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. After the initial shock of the temperature, our bodies begin to settle and calm down, training us to be more resilient to changes in our environment and help us face stressful situations more adequately

While there is little scientific background linking the benefits of ice baths to reduced anxiety disorders, the logistics are very much present; from splashing freezing cold water on our faces in a bid to wake ourselves up and revitalise ourselves, to the uplifting response we feel when we apply cold treatments to our body.

Ice baths present an immediate pain relief, leading many to report feelings of happiness post-treatment; they also force us to modify our breathing, encouraging deeper and more controlled breaths which contributes to a sensation of destressing.

On the other end of the spectrum, stress management is also one of the many sauna benefits; read all about the others health advantages in our comprehensive guide if you'd be interested in using heat and cold therapy interchangeably.

Ice Bath Precautions and Risks

It may not come as a surprise that ice baths come with their disadvantages, you’re submerging your body into freezing cold temperatures after all. 

So, while we’re here to encourage ice baths and all their advantages, we want to ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting into, and that means covering any side effects that may come as a result. 

 

#1 Reduce Strength Training Effectiveness

Though we highly encourage using an ice bath to assist in healing sore muscles after a strenuous, high intensity workout, there is evidence to suggest that ice baths are in fact harmful when used following a strength training session. 

A 2015 study in the Journal of Physiology highlighted that long-term gains in muscle mass and strength decreased in those who took ice baths, which mirrors the 2014 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research which showed decreases in strength in subjects using CWI therapy. 

It has been insinuated that ice baths can not only result in smaller long-term muscle gains, but they can actually stunt muscle growth all together. 

In short, endurance athletes can achieve performance-enhancing effects from regular ice baths, while strength athletes' performances are more likely to be negatively impacted. For a more consistent progression with optimal effectiveness, check out OriGym's Resistance Training Guide.

#2 Can Cause Hypothermia

As with any type of prolonged exposure to extreme cold temperatures comes a risk of hypothermia, and sadly ice baths are no exception. 

Hypothermia, in contrast to hyperthermia which we previously spoke about, is a medical emergency that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. 

General guidelines state that when a person is submerged into temperatures of 41 degrees fahrenheit (5 degrees celsius), it would take between 10 and 20 minutes before they begin to experience any loss of coordination and strength - of which are the first signs of hypothermia.

With that being said, if you abide to the guidelines of a 10-15 minute time period and a temperature of 10-15 degrees celsius, your risk of hypothermia is very minimal. 

 

#3 Pose a Risk to People With Cardiac Conditions

As we explained earlier, many of the ice bath advantages come as a result of the shock it causes to the body, activating responses such as ‘fight-or-flight’ and the energising boost that decreases feelings of depression. 

However this shock can present a marked effect on blood flow which in some populations is not beneficial and in some cases could lead to a sudden death in those with existing heart conditions.

As cold temperatures decrease core temperature, constricts blood vessels and slows the body’s blood flow to the arms and legs, this can make it becomes harder for the heart to pump blood through those constricted vessels. This is particularly dangerous in those who already have an existing decreased blood flow as it can place people in those populations at a greater risk for strokes or cardiac arrest.

For this reason, if you have history of heart disease, have had a heart attack before or have any other type of heart condition, we advise you against taking an ice bath. Investing in a heart rate monitor to track your data is also a great way to attain useful insights on your general performance as well as help you analyse peak activity. 

 

#4 Make Tight or Stiff Muscles Worse

Though ice baths are certainly advantageous in aiding some pain and reducing muscle inflammation, they could in fact worsen pain in tight or stiff muscles. 

While there are properties of ice baths which encourage our bodies to enter relaxed states, the same theory doesn;t apply to our muscles; ice baths cause muscles to contract and when this occurs in tight or stiff muscles, it can make your pain much worse - especially at points of the lower back or neck.

This is typically why heat packs are advised in scenarios of stiff or seized up muscles, along with hamstring stretches for back pain and tight muscles.

Ice Bath Myths

While we’re here, we also wanted to debunk some myths that have been sold as definitive benefits of ice baths. 

Ice Baths Increase Muscle Mass

Yes, ice baths offer a great number of advantages in sport and athletic performance, however enhancing your muscle mass as a direct result is not one of them. 

Though, if we’re talking indirectly, through decreased recovery times and reducing muscle soreness, this allows people to get back to working out sooner and means you can take fewer rest days. This allows for greater and faster progress as it means you can engage in more exercise at a higher capacity than if you were sore. 

But the primary way in which you can increase muscle mass is through consistent resistance training; read our report comparing resistance bands vs weights to know which will offer more benefit to you.

Ice Baths Make You a Better Athlete

Similarly to the above point, taking an ice bath prior to a run is not going to magically make you run faster than your opponents. Just as we mentioned, the benefits of ice baths paly a role in maintaining and boosting the health of our internal workings, allowing for better sleep, reduced soreness and better moods.

These factors themselves can play a role in our sports performance over time, as each offer their own benefits to how we perform, however if you’re banking on an ice bath to see you outrun Usain Bolt simply because you read somewhere it makes you faster - then we hate to break it to you that that simply is not the case. 

By improving all of the other benefits of ice baths, over time, this could indirectly enhance your athletic performance and see you build muscle and speed and therefore become a better athlete, but it is through regular use and consistent work.

How To Make an Ice Bath Safely

Still eager to put your body through new challenges and take the icy plunge? Here’s OriGym’s instructions making an ice bath safely:

  • First, begin by filling your tub with one bucket of water for every three buckets of ice (1:3 ratio of water-to-ice).
  • Once the bath is ready and at a level that will sit at chest-level, start easing yourself in; gradually dipping your lower body in which will allow you to adjust properly to the cold.
  • On your first attempt, we suggest staying in for a much shorter length of time than the recommended 10-15 minutes. Like we said, anything more than 30 seconds offers some benefits. Over time you will acclimate, though, even in this case always cap your ice baths at 15 minutes max.

Tips For Getting An Ice Bath

#1 Ease Yourself In Slowly

Submerging in ice cold water is a definite shock to the system. Start by taking just a cold bath. Practice breathing normally and relaxing. You can increase the amount of ice you add to the bath as you get used to the water. You can also add more ice each time you try an ice bath. Even a bath at about 60 degrees has some benefits.

#2 Don’t Want Ice?

If you want the cold water and its benefits without the addition of ice, no problem - go for a cold shower instead. You can begin with your shower on a warm temperature setting, turning the setting to the coldest setting for 10 second intervals. You can do this more regularly than an ice bath too. After just a few days, you can begin to increase teh period of time you stand beneath the cold water for, up to 20 or 30 seconds and so on until you may want to take an entire shower under the cold!

#3 Upgrade to a Cold Plunge Tub

For optimal results and the full effect, ice baths work best in tubs that allow you to submerge your entire body underneath - which isn’t always the case with our standard bathtubs. Investing in a cold plunge tub is a great option for those who like a regular dip in the cold and they are also more practical as it eliminates the hassle of sourcing bucket-fulls of ice every time you want to resp the ice bath advantages. 

#4 Follow Safety Guidelines

Perhaps the most crucial rule to ice baths, it is important to take on board the safety guidelines provided and advice offered. This is particularly prevalent in regards to the temperature of the water and the time period you stay in the ice bath, as these are the primary factors which can lead to injury or act as cause for concern. In general, breathe normally and listen to your body.

FAQs

When Should You Take an Ice Bath?

So far, there’s no time period that’s shown to be most effective and within this article we have presented positives for taking ice baths both before or after a strenuous workout. To reap the majority of the aforementioned ice bath benefits, we suggest the sooner you can hop in the ice bath after an intense workout or activity, the better. 

How Long Should I Sit in an Ice Bath?

Now it is important that you follow this advice as it can be critical to your health. There is an abundance of science and guidelines that all state that the best results of an ice bath are achieved after soaking in water temperatures between 10 and 15 °C (50 to 59 °F) for 10 to 15 minutes.

Staying in an ice bath of these temperatures beyond this time frame exposes you to the potential downsides that we have previously laid out for you, such as hypothermia. If you notice that your skin is changing colours (i.e. blue, purple), then it is important that you evacuate the bath as soon as that occurs.

Before You Go!

It is worth noting that to reap the benefits of an ice bath, while we recommend submerging yourself in the tub for 10 minutes, switching the shower to its coldest setting at the end of your standard daily shower in itself offers some smaller benefits. 

However, to achieve the full ice baths benefits, what’s 10 minutes twice a week, really?

It may take some bracing and stoicism each time, but the benefits of ice baths, as you can see, are most definitely worth it. Imrpoved metabolism, better mental health and improved immune system to note but a few of the most enticing benefits ice baths promote and the reason athletes and sportspeople alike continue to take the plunge.

While research about ice baths is still limited, the science behind our points is abundant and provide you with enough information to make a smart decision about whether ice baths are right for you.

Now... are you wanting to become a personal trainer and kick-start a new career in fitness? Go ahead and download our latest prospectus here, or check out OriGym's Level 3 Personal Training qualifications!

References

  1. Yoneshiro T, Wang Q, Tajima K, Matsushita M, Maki H, Igarashi K, Dai Z, White PJ, McGarrah RW, Ilkayeva OR, Deleye Y, Oguri Y, Kuroda M, Ikeda K, Li H, Ueno A, Ohishi M, Ishikawa T, Kim K, Chen Y, Sponton CH, Pradhan RN, Majd H, Greiner VJ, Yoneshiro M, Brown Z, Chondronikola M, Takahashi H, Goto T, Kawada T, Sidossis L, Szoka FC, McManus MT, Saito M, Soga T, Kajimura S. Nature. 2019 Aug 21. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1503-x. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 31435015.
  2. Cory L. Butts, MS; Brendon P. McDermott, PhD, ATC; Brian J. Buening, MS, ATC; Jeffrey A. Bonacci, DA, ATC; Matthew S. Ganio, PhD; J. D. Adams, MS; Matthew A. Tucker, MA; Stavros A. Kavouras, PhDJ Athl Train (2016) 51 (3): 252–257.
  3. Zhang Y, Davis JK, Casa DJ, Bishop PA. Optimizing Cold Water Immersion for Exercise-Induced Hyperthermia: A Meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Nov;47(11):2464-72. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000693. PMID: 25910052.
  4. Roberts LA, Raastad T, Markworth JF, et al. Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signalling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training. J Physiol. 2015;593(18):4285-4301. doi:10.1113/JP270570

Written by Annie Williams

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Annie on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Graduating from Liverpool John Moores University with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, Annie specialises in mental and physical wellbeing, with a specific interest in nutrition and mindfulness. Her long standing interest in fitness is what brought her to OriGym, and led her to become a qualified Personal Trainer and obtain specialist qualifications in Advanced Sports Nutrition. Annie’s primary professional attraction lies in following and tracking the ever-changing trends in the fitness industry. Beyond OriGym, Annie divides her time between personal writing, her passion for the countryside and mountain walking, and charitable runs.

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