Ice baths are a crucial post-workout recovery technique that anybody may use.
Jumping into a cold bath may not appeal to everyone. However, the practice may benefit both your mental and physical health, don't rush into a cold bath for a panacea.
As a professional fitness trainer, I've incorporated ice baths into my client's training regimens. In this post, I'll share my knowledge and results on ice bath benefits, as noticed through our testing protocol, how to make an ice bath, risks and side effects, and tips for taking an ice bath.
- An ice bath can help you reduce inflammation, recover faster from high-intensity exercises, handle anxiety and stress better, become more resilient, and more.
- There is no approved method for taking an ice bath. However, most individuals spend between five and ten minutes in 50 to 59°F water.
- People with specific medical issues should avoid cold-water plunges. As a result, before attempting anything, consult your healthcare physician first.
Ice Bath Benefits
Boosts Physical Recovery
After or in between tough workouts, take icy plunges.
Cold exposure has been demonstrated in studies to enhance oxygenated blood flow, therefore speeding up muscle healing and minimizing delayed onset muscle pain .
Allowing your body to recover muscle injuries more quickly can increase muscular development and lower your chance of injury.
When you plunge into ice-cold water, the central nervous system constricts the blood vessels in the extremities, forcing warm blood to your essential organs.
As an outcome, circulation in your limbs and arms is briefly impaired.
When you step out of the cold water, the blood vessels dilate, permitting more blood to flow to the muscular tissue in your skin and extremities.
They Can Cool the Body
Among the most obvious benefits of ice baths is that it helps your body cool down quickly.
According to one study, a cold shower (equivalent to an ice bath) can help reduce exertional hyperthermia .
Simultaneously, complete cold water immersion treatment was much more successful in lowering a high body temperature.
Read More: Cool Down Exercises After Working Out
Increases Energy Levels
Short-term exposure to cold water temperatures induces alterations in hormone production.
For example, research has demonstrated that ice baths work by enhancing norepinephrine release; norepinephrine is among the hormones important for controlling attention, focus, and energy .
They Can Boost Immunity
There is some evidence that ice baths improve immunity.
According to one research, individuals who take cold showers are about 30% less likely to call in sick for school or work .
Cold water swimming exposes your body to physiological stressors daily, forcing it to perform outside of its comfort zone and impacting immune function.
Boosts the Mood
When you get out of the icy water, it seems like you've won another war with your thoughts.
That sense of having won again establishes the day's atmosphere and lifts your mood.
In addition to the psychological boost, cold plunging has a biological component that affects mood: the act causes the production of endorphins and various neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine.
A study concluded that therapeutic agents which especially increase NE (norepinephrine) action are effective antidepressants, and there is proof that those acting concurrently on 5-HT and NE neurotransmission might have an antidepressant action superior to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) .
Many of the benefits of cold water therapy can be attributed to its impact on circulation.
In one study, 10 healthy people participated in a 30-minute contrast water session, with one lower leg immersed and the other above water.
They discovered that cold water therapy greatly enhanced circulation and oxygen levels in the immersed leg muscles compared to the non-submerged limb .
The cardiovascular system (the circulatory system) circulates blood to the lungs, which then transports oxygen to every part of the body via the heart.
The more effectively your heart and blood arteries accomplish these activities, the better they will be able to eliminate waste from your body. Healthy muscles, organs, and tissues are the outcome of cold therapy.
Improves Mental Health
Ice baths may also be beneficial to your mental health.
Research indicated that having a 20-minute ice bath four days a week enhanced gout patients' quality of life.
They experienced improved joint mobility and were less stressed, anxious, and depressed .
Cold water causes a stress reaction and stimulates the neurological system. These modifications can help you enhance your mood and adjust to stress over time.
Relieves Muscle Soreness
Taking a cold bath may help ease muscular pain. Reduced inflammation and slower nerve communication may result in less pain.
Cold water may also reduce the feeling of pain or discomfort you experience.
That explains why, according to a comprehensive analysis, ice baths diminish delayed-onset muscular soreness (DOMS) after a workout.
Ice baths may also help with chronic pain, according to research. This includes fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout .
Help with Fat Loss
Cold water immersion boosts metabolism.
A study found a correlation between cold acclimation, distinct from cold-water therapy but also involves lowering body temperature, and the creation of brown adipose tissue action, which aids in weight loss .
Weight reduction would be predictable, considering that the approach has also been shown to enhance metabolic rate.
"When you immerse the body in cold water, the heart rate increases and your body operates harder to pump blood all through the circulatory system properly."
- Jonathan Leary, Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine
Learn More: Most Common Weight Loss Myths
How To Make an Ice Bath
You have plenty of choices if you choose to try ice baths. You can go to a gym or spa or purchase an at-home ice bath with a thermostat control system.
However, a fancy ice bath isn't required. You may also make use of your bathtub. You only need ice cubes, a timer, and a thermometer.
To build an at-home ice bath:
- Fill the tub with lukewarm water and place your thermometer in it.
- Gradually put ice cubes in the water. Before entering the tub, remember to dress comfortably, like in a T-shirt and shorts.
- When the water temperature hits 50 to 59°F (10 to 15°C), cautiously step into the tub.
- Set the alarm for five, ten, or fewer minutes, depending on how long you think is right.
- Carefully exit the tub and completely dry off before getting into dry clothing.
Many ice bath enthusiasts recommend gradually increasing your exposure to cold water.
For instance, you can progressively reduce the temperature of the ice baths till you reach a comfortable level.
Alternatively, ease into ice baths by beginning with your lower body and gradually progressing to full-body soaks. The chilly water will be less intimidating to your system this way.
Risks and Side Effects of Ice Baths
Taking an ice bath might be risky, particularly if you've got certain medical issues. So, before you attempt one, consult with your healthcare physician.
If you are facing any of these illnesses, your provider may advise you to avoid taking ice baths:
- Heart illness or high blood pressure
- Circulatory issues such as peripheral artery disease
- Conditions that increase your sensitivity to cold
- An open wound
Staying in cold water for an extended period might result in hypothermia, which arises when the body's temperature drops too low.
That is why setting a timer and keeping your ice baths short is critical. Also, remember to listen to your body. Leave the ice bath immediately if you start shaking uncontrollably or observe skin color changes.
The most visible side effect of the ice bath is feeling extremely cold while immersed in cold water.
However, aside from this obvious adverse effect, there are several additional risks to consider.
The drop in core temperature and exposure to ice constricts the blood vessels and decreases blood flow throughout the body.
This can be hazardous if your blood flow is reduced, putting you at risk of stroke or cardiac arrest.
Ice baths ought to be avoided by patients with both types of diabetes since they both have a reduced ability to regulate core temperature during extreme cold temperatures.
Tips for Taking an Ice Bath
If you're prepared to take the plunge, there are some things you must know before immersing your body in ice.
Time in the Ice Bath
Taking excessive time in an ice bath might be risky. That is why you should restrict your time to ten and fifteen minutes.
Ice Bath Temperature
The cold temperatures of an ice bath ought to be around 10-15° Celsius (50-59° Fahrenheit).
You should immerse your entire body in an ice bath to maximize the effect of constriction of blood vessels.
To begin, you should expose the toes and legs first. You may move nearer to your chest as you get more at ease.
When mixing the ice with water at home, employ a thermometer to assist you in attaining the optimum temperature.
If it is too high (over 15°C/59°F), gently add ice. If the temperature is too low, slowly add warm water until it reaches the ideal temperature.
Timing of Bath
"The sooner you go into an ice bath following an exercise or competition, the greater the results will be." - Dr. A. Brion Gardner, Orthopaedic Surgeon
If you wait an hour after exercising, some of the recovery and inflammatory processes will have already begun or been completed.
Lewis Reaction/Hunter Reaction
Another strategy to benefit from ice on aching muscles is to adopt the Lewis Reaction/Hunters Reaction method, which follows the 10-10-10 arrangement.
Icing for ten minutes (not directly on naked skin), then removing the ice for ten minutes, and lastly, icing for another 10 minutes enables 20 minutes of efficient physiological icing.
Some people prefer full-body cryotherapy spaces, which are essentially office-based cold therapy. These treatments are not inexpensive per session.
The data on how frequently you should have an ice bath is limited.
However, other experts believe that short episodes of cold water immersion (CWI) to aid recovery are acceptable, but regular usage of CWI must be avoided.
How Long Should You Go in an Ice Bath?
You should stay in an ice bath for approximately 15 minutes. You should build up to the recommended 15 minutes without straining your body too much.
Is It Good To Have an Ice Bath Every Day?
Yes, it is good to have an ice bath every day. If you're in excellent health, there's no threat in taking a few minutes daily to indulge in an ice bath.
What To Do After an Ice Bath?
After an ice bath, you want to return to your base body temperature by actively recovering. It is preferable to have a warm beverage following ice baths rather than trying to fast warm up with warm water.
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