Would you dare to take the plunge? We discover all the brrr-illiant benefits ice baths can bring.
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.
What is an ice bath?
An ice bath is form of cryotherapy (pain relief that uses very low temperatures) that requires you to sit in chilled water for anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes. The usual requirement is for the water to be at chest level. Temperature wise the ideal level would be somewhere between 50 to 59°F/10 to 15°C. Ice baths are also referred to as cold water immersion.
What are the benefits of ice baths?
If you are gathering up the courage to take an ice bath, it will be helpful to understand if there are any benefits that come with taking the cold plunge. Ice baths aren’t intended as a painful endurance test as they can offer some great health benefits to anyone who likes to keep fit.
1. Soothes sore muscles
Once you have finished working out, your body needs to rest and recover, whether done via stretching, massaging or wearing compression garments. Your muscles will be hot, inflamed and will need to cool down, so taking an ice bath is one of the most effective ways to help your body recover. Not only that, but an ice bath will help repair any damage caused during exercise. When you get into an ice bath the blood vessels constrict and then dilate when you get out. As a result, metabolic waste is flushed away, which is helpful for the lymph nodes, and increases blood flow to your cells with oxygen and nutrients. Naturally, your body temperature returns to normal much faster which reduces inflammation and aids recovery time.
2. Improves metabolism and immune system
Exposure to colder temperatures can also change the way your fat cells behave. Our bodies contain 2 types of fat: white fat—which isn’t healthy as too much can lead to obesity—and brown fat—which offers more benefits because it is able to convert energy into heat (known as thermogenesis). Numerous studies have shown that this process helps to control the metabolism and can help to reduce weight gain.
So where do ice baths come into this? Well, they can help kick start this process, giving you twice the benefits: Helping you avoid weight gain and bolstering your immune system.
This is particularly helpful if you aren’t a fan of taking vitamins or supplements. It offers a more natural way to boost your immune system and can also be used in conjunction with specialised breathing techniques, helping to trigger the stress hormone adrenaline which will improve your overall immunity capabilities.
The Dulwich freestanding single ended bath from The Bath Co.—the perfect setting for your ice bath
3. Helps stress management
While the thought of getting inside an ice bath may seem scary, cold water immersion can actually help combat fight-or-flight tendencies. Being inside cold water for a period of time conditions the brain to deal with stress, which can be translated to everyday situations.
The production of inflammatory cytokines (which are often linked to depression and anxiety) are lowered, allowing you to acclimatise quicker following the initial temperature shock. Once the body starts to settle, we become more resilient to any changes that may happen around us.
When taking an ice bath, you are essentially challenging your body to see if it can withstand different levels of stress. Our bodies are far tougher than we may believe and the long-term result is an ability overcome future challenges in our lives with less panic and a more considered approach.
4. Enjoy a better night’s sleep
Studies have previously shown that ice baths can also have a positive effect on achieving a better night’s rest. It helps control cortisol levels (a steroid hormone) and has been demonstrated to improve depression symptoms and have a positive effect on those dealing with sleep-related disorders.
Taking an ice bath can also help your central nervous system with improved sleep, which in-turn lowers fatigue levels and improves your general mood. Calming the nervous system plays a key role in being able to relax and let your body and mind unwind so you can drift off for the night.
Athletes, or anyone who is regularly active, need to ensure they are getting the right amount of rest in order to maintain peak performance levels. With a calmer nervous system, better sleep and improved mood, reaction times and explosiveness in certain workouts are more likely to be better as a result.
5. Boosts sports performance
Many athletes don’t just take an ice bath after a workout—some also immerse themselves in cold water before starting a workout. This can prove to be particularly useful on hot and humid days where temperatures and conditions can have a negative effect on your performance levels.
Similar to how a post-exercise ice bath cools the system, the same principle applies pre-performance. This is especially true for long distance runs where body temperature can get quite high on a hot day. An ice bath can lower core body temperature by a few degrees to make a notable difference to performance.
You can almost imagine how chilly this water is!
Are there any risks to taking an ice bath?
While you will feel very cold when you first step out of an ice bath, there are some other health implications to consider before taking one. Hypothermia is a possible risk, although this is more likely to occur if you remain in an ice bath for a long period of time. 10 to 15 minutes is generally the longest you should stay submerged.
The main risks of taking an ice bath are associated with people who already have high blood pressure or some form of cardiovascular disease. This is because the temperature of the ice slows the flow of body around the body, placing you at greater risk of experiencing a stroke or cardiac arrest. If you fall into this category always seek professional medical advice before taking an ice bath.
Other bathroom-related health benefits
There are plenty of other things you can do in your bathroom to boost your health and wellbeing. On our blog, we also examine the benefits of cold showers, take a look at why a whirlpool bath will do you good.
However healthy your lifestyle may be, a good quality bath can make a big difference to your daily routine. Why not browse our huge range of designs, from multi-functional shower baths to luxurious freestanding tubs, and make a change today? Simply click on the image below to begin shopping.