ice bath

Bold Enough for the Cold with an Ice Bath?

Ice bath or Ice water immersion and contrast temperature water immersion therapy post exercise is fast becoming a common practice among athletes involved in a variety of sports. It might seem like ice-baths are a recent trend, however, “cold water treatment” has existed throughout history.

And if you haven’t had the opportunity, picture a giant tub filled with cold water and maybe even ice cubes, depending on the ambient temperature, where individuals submerge themselves, potentially their entire body, but more typically only their feet, lower body, or up to their chest.

Anti-ice-bathers say it’s ineffective or even dangerous. So, does freezing yourself from head to toe really do your bod any good?

ice bath

Ice Bath: It may improve workout recovery

There are some ideas about how ice-baths can help prevent muscle soreness and cool your body down, but studies have not yet shown if regular ice-baths, or ice-baths following rigorous activity, can lead to increased long-term recovery, enhanced strength gains, or muscle repair and growth. It’s no secret that ice-bath have been used by athletes so they could train harder and faster. In competitive situations, where athletes compete numerous times over several days, enhancing recovery may prove a competitive advantage.

ice bath

Ice Bath: Can Ice Bath Reduce Risk of Injury

The latter can affect performance and also increase the risk of further injury, especially if the athlete returns to the sport prematurely. Without properly recovering between workouts, an athlete raises their risk of sustaining an injury. As ice-baths can assist with recovery by decreasing soreness, this also reduces the risk of injury in the next competition or training session. Knowing this little secret helps to coax the most cold-resistant athlete to take the plunge.

For athletes who want to train hard two, three, or more times a week, recovering quickly is essential.

Do ice baths help an athlete train more?

While athletes mainly use this recovery technique, ice-baths have had an increase in their following recently with the rise of different cryotherapy treatments, or cold immersion, and recovery services. Ice-bath benefits are plenty and go beyond athletic needs. There are many benefits of ice-baths, which could be especially relevant for athletes. The two athletes in this report presented with delayed onset muscle soreness and both had utilized the water immersion therapy.

Yamane et al. studied matched athlete groups (immersion in cold water versus being kept at room temperature) after training and concluded that increased artery diameter and hyperthermia were transient and essential for training effects (myofiber regeneration, muscle hypertrophy and improved blood flow) to be observed.

Does Ice Baths help Athletes Boosts Circulation?

Increased circulation means more nourishing and healing blood supply to muscles and less inflammation to joints. Keep in mind that going on a 10-minute walk can give you a similar blood-circulatory boost. Really don’t want to walk it out? Try an ice-bath instead. After an ice-bath, the body opens up those blood vessels and rushes blood to the cold areas, in an effort to warm the tissue. This actually increases circulation. Ice-bathes actually help to keep your muscles, ligaments, and tendons healthy and flushed of toxins.

Is it a Mood Booster?

Most studies staking ice baths look at possible benefits like post-workout muscle recovery, management of inflammation, and boosting mood. The subjects also reported less stress, anxiety, and depression by the end of the four-week study. While more research might be needed to truly understand the link between depression and ice baths, a little ice in your life just might help your mood. However, some mood benefits may have been due to improvements in pain and mobility, and not necessarily attributed to cold water therapy directly. Also it’s time to stay safe from the COVID-19 new variant.

Time to Deep Dive: How and When to take it?

Step by step process of how to take ice bath
  • Timing is Important. Sports trainers generally recommend hopping in the ice bath as soon as you can after your workout. That way, you can target your muscles while they’re still in the healing process.
  • There are no standard guidelines for how to make an ice bath. So most information –– on the best water temperature, how long to sit in an ice bath, and how often to take one –– comes from research and firsthand accounts.
  • Run lukewarm water, and put your thermometer in the tub.
  • Gradually add ice cubes to the tepid water. Remember to wear comfortable clothes like a T-shirt and shorts before getting into the tub. 
  • Step into the tub slowly when the water reaches 50 to 59°F, or 10 to 15°C.  
  • Set your alarm for 10 to 15 minutes or less based on what feels reasonable.
  • Get out of the tub carefully, and dry off thoroughly before changing into dry clothes.
  • Make it cool and short. An ice bath is def not the time to test how pruned your fingers and toes can get. Aim to stay in no more than 10 to 15 minutes.

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9 thoughts on “Bold Enough for the Cold with an Ice Bath?

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