Before ice baths were the hottest health trend, they were a proven alternative to more conventional methods of treating inflammation and pain.
Research has shown that taking an ice bath immediately after a workout can speed up recovery in athletes, increase mobility in seniors, and also improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics.
If you’re willing to give ice baths a shot, there are a few things you need to know before jumping in.
What are ice baths?
Ice baths, also known as cold water immersion or cold hydrotherapy, are a form of cryotherapy — not nearly as extreme. The recommended temperature for an ice bath is 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Health benefits of ice baths
If you’re thinking about trying ice baths, you might have some questions about what they are and if they can help you.
The good news is that there are potential benefits to using an ice bath. Most people who use them are athletes or exercise enthusiasts. Here are five benefits:
1) Helps in muscle recovery
Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, but when you get out of the water, the vessels quickly reopen, increasing blood flow to the muscles. This helps flush out metabolic waste products and provide much-needed oxygen and nutrients. In theory, this should help your body recover after a hard workout.
2) Improves sleep
According to a study in Journal of Sleep Research, an ice bath before bed can help improve sleep. The cold water triggers a physiological response, including an increase in body temperature and heart rate, which has a positive effect on the central nervous system and can help you sleep better.
3) Boosts mental health
Taking a cold shower or bath can help reduce stress and anxiety, according to a small study of people with gout. Scientists believe that cold triggers a stress response in the body and activates the nervous system. This change can improve mood and help you adapt to stress over time.
4) Prevents muscle soreness
According to a recent study, immersing yourself in an ice bath after a hard workout can reduce delayed muscle soreness. Researchers believe it does this by cooling muscles and reducing inflammation.
5) Reduces inflammation and swelling
When you immerse yourself in an ice bath after a hard workout, your body temperature drops. The cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to the muscles and reducing swelling.
Research shows that ice baths can help with inflammation better than other recovery methods like compression stockings.
How do you make an ice bath?
Ice baths are not usually prescribed by doctors. The best way to figure out how to make one is to experiment with what feels good for your body.
Here are some ways you can try:
- If you want to cool off, run some lukewarm water.
- Place the thermometer in the tub and add ice cubes until the water reaches 10-15°C.
- Wearing a t-shirt and shorts is a good idea as they dry quickly.
- Slowly step into the tub when the water feels comfortable.
- Set your alarm so you don’t stay home too long.
- Dry yourself well when you’re done – you don’t want to catch a cold!
When beginning ice baths, some people recommend gradually lowering the water temperature or starting with the lower body.
How Often Should You Take Ice Baths?
An ice bath after a workout can help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Researchers have found that cold water immersion therapy is most effective up to 24 hours after exercise. Others, however, say the best option is to end each shower with a slosh of cold water and switch to ice baths when needed.
If you have any health conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking an ice bath. They may suggest other options based on your symptoms.
If you spend too much time in an ice bath, you can suffer from hypothermia, a condition in which your body temperature drops dangerously. To minimize the risk of cold shock, use a timer and keep ice baths short.
Take care of your body – you should leave the bath immediately if you begin to tremble uncontrollably or notice a change in skin color.
Ice baths are trending, and for good reason. They’ve been proven effective for reducing DOMS and discomfort, increasing the speed of recovery, and even calming the mind.
However, take any health fad with a grain of salt — ice baths have not been proven to offer an instant cure for any mental or physical ailment. So it’s important to know the difference.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your athletic recovery after a workout, ice baths can be a great way to help. Just don’t expect them to fix anything – they’re just a tool in the box of health and fitness.