6 Ice Bath Benefits and Tips for Success
What do LeBron James, Lady Gaga, and Zac Efron all have in common? They all take ice baths! Before Lady Gaga takes the stage, she takes a cold dip for 10 minutes – and repeats it when the show is done. The truth is there’s no shortage of celebrities and athletes who use ice baths for enhancing their performance – but what are the benefits? Like anything else, there are debates about how effective they are. However, it’s worth exploring ice baths as a recovery method if you regularly complete intense workouts.
What are ice baths?
Ice baths are considered a form of cryotherapy – or therapy that involves near-freezing temperatures. They are a form of cold-water immersion. They usually follow a period of intense exercise and involve sitting in a bathtub filled with icy water, usually between 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 degrees Celsius). Sometimes it involves sitting in a bathtub filled with ice and not only water. This is considered the ideal temperature because it’s cold enough to chill your body but not actually a freezing temperature.
When is the best time to take an ice bath?
The timing of your ice bath is important. Take the plunge right after your workout when your muscles are begging to cool down! Don’t wait too long. It is not recommended to stay in your bath for more than 15 minutes.
6 ice bath benefits
Let’s be real: ice baths aren’t comfortable. There’s also some debate as to how effective they really are. However, they do have some potential benefits that might be worth the initial discomfort.
May improve sleep
To fall asleep, your body needs to be at a lower temperature. Taking an ice bath can help your body get to that lower temperature so you can fall asleep more easily. It also positively impacts the central nervous system, which influences sleep.
Helps with muscle recovery
Ice baths may help with muscle recovery after a tough workout. When you are exposed to cold water, your blood vessels get smaller. When you get out of the bath, they open up quickly, which helps flood your muscles with oxygen and flush out toxins. This aids in recovery. Plus, they simply feel good on sore, aching, and warm muscles.
Helps reduce the risk of injury
Since ice baths help decrease soreness and help with muscle recovery, this may help reduce your risk of injury during your next workout.
Helps reduce delayed onset muscle soreness
Many endurance athletes such as long-distance runners use ice baths to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The idea behind this is that the cold plunge helps reduce inflammation right away after a challenging workout.
Helps the body cool down
When you work out, your body heats up quickly. In some instances, this can cause hyperthermia – or a dangerously overheated body. One study in the Journal of Athletic Training found that ice water immersion and cold water immersion were both effective in rapidly cooling down hyperthermic runners. Taking an ice bath before a long-distance running event can also bring the body’s core temperature down before starting to reduce the impact of heat.
May boost mental health
Most people don’t find ice baths to be a pleasant feeling. However, being in a tub of cold water may improve your ability to relax and focus. As you build up a tolerance for the cold, it will awaken a sense of resilience. This can have a positive effect on your mood and outlook.
Ice baths are not without some risks. If you are interested in trying an one, it is important to consult your doctor first. One risk is hypothermia or a dangerous drop in body temperature. Another risk may include a faster heartbeat. You may also experience some damage to your skin if the water is too cold.
Tips for taking an ice bath
There are ways to safely take an ice bath or experience the benefits of cryotherapy. If you can’t take an ice bath at home, you can find a gym or spa that offers cryotherapy.
- Check the temperature of your ice bath. Keep it between 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 degrees Celsius). Don’t guess the temperature. Use a thermometer!
- Limit your time in the ice bath. Do not stay in longer than 15 minutes. Do what you are comfortable with, even if it’s less than five minutes. Set an alarm if you think you’ll go over 15 minutes.
- Immerse one body part at a time. Whole-body immersion is most effective. However, if you’re new to ice baths, try one body part at a time. Start with one arm or your legs and feet. Then work up to your chest as you get more comfortable with ice baths.
- Dress for success. Wear clothes that fit close to your body in the ice bath to protect your skin. Some people wear booties to protect their toes and feet.
- Listen to music. If you’re not mentally prepared for an ice bath and how it feels, you’ll need to be able to focus on more than the cold. Listening to music and singing along can help take your mind off of the bath.
- Count or meditate. Counting and meditating can help take your mind off of the cold and make you focus on something else.
Ice baths are not for the faint of heart. They are a serious method used for recovery that should be approached with safety and achieving true wellness in mind. Although not everyone believes ice baths are effective, many experts believe they are a valuable muscle recovery tool – especially post workout or after an endurance event. The important thing to remember is to always follow the recommended guidelines for safely taking an ice bath. Don't have a bathtub? Take a cold shower. You'll get plenty of the benefits.
Adi Arezzini | @adiarezzini
Co-Founder + CEO, Teami Blends
Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach
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