Are ice baths good for you?
The benefits of ice bathing
Ice baths are known for their ability to heal, rejuvenate and energize. They can help with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia and more. Coldwater immersion can help improve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
There is a lot of science behind the benefits of ice baths. When you plunge into icy water your body releases anti-inflammatory cytokines that reduce joint inflammation and it also helps improve circulation which means more oxygen is delivered to the cells in your muscles.
The cold temperature activates an enzyme called pyruvate kinase which breaks down lactic acid that builds up during exercise or when your body is under stress. This reduces muscle soreness after exercising or relaxing after work which leaves you feeling refreshed rather than tired. So it’s great to soothe sore muscles via what is called cold water immersion.
The ice plunges release endorphins which naturally make you feel happier and more relaxed while ice baths boost serotonin to help improve mood, decrease anxiety and diminish depression symptoms. This is why ice baths are great for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or other mental health conditions like major depressive episodes because they can act as a form of self-treatment alongside professional treatment where required. Ice plunge therapy has even been used to reduce chronic pain and reduce high blood pressure.
How often should ice baths be used?
Consistency is key, whether it be daily or once or twice a week. It’s important to listen to your own body and decide what works best for you.
Where can you ice plunge?
There are many different ways and methods on how to ice plunge safely – some include using cold water immersion therapy with the help of an experienced therapist who will know exactly what they’re doing. Enquire here about guided ice bath experiences with the Urban Ice Man. You can also purchase specific equipment that allows you to do it yourself at home without any assistance which is ideal for those that prefer self-treatment, you can even just simply start with cold baths or showers as a great way to get into cold water therapy.
Another option is the DIY approach, for example turning a chest freezer into a homemade ice bath (check out the chest freezer cold plunge guide). Either way, this beneficial treatment has been proven time and again so if you want to improve your health then try ice plunging, you will be amazed at the benefits and how it makes you feel from the moment you first take the plunge into an ice tub.
How long you should use an ice bath for?
You should ice plunge for no more than 10 minutes every ice bath. The cold tub should be about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) or colder. Staying in an ice bath for too long can be dangerous and you risk hypothermia, decreased blood flow which can increase the risk of cardiac arrest. Also if you have diabetes you should take extra care due to the effect it can have on your ability to maintain core temperature.
This is what happens to your body in an ice bath
Ice baths work in reducing your core body temperature and constricting your blood vessels. Your entire body is plunged into cold temperatures, your blood vessels constrict, cold receptors engage and your body releases anti-inflammatory cytokines. This reduces joint inflammation and improves circulation which brings more oxygen to the cells in your muscles. It also helps break down lactic acid from exercising or when your body is under stress.
The ice bath will make you happier and less stressed. You will feel refreshed after ice plunging instead of tired and you may sleep deeper and longer.
How ice baths improve sleep
Ice baths improve sleep by increasing the amount of time you spend in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Immersing yourself in cold water activates your immune system and supports continuous healing, it taps into your sympathetic immune system (as discovered in a study published in the Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine) and enables the release of hormones that improve your mood, help you to relax, reduce anxiety, slow the heart and release tension. Ice bath submersion also has a positive impact on our central nervous system via the improvement in sleep.
Coldwater immersion can be invigorating so you may not want to plunge into cold water right before bedtime but certainly, the benefits of cold water therapy have positive impacts on sleep overall. However, there is some increasing research into the positive impacts of ice baths immediately prior to bedtime due to the impact on melatonin production.
Ice baths and melatonin
It is also reported that extreme cold boosts the production of melatonin, the hormone that our bodies naturally release to make us feel sleepy and tired, the release of melatonin prior to bedtime can aid in getting to sleep quicker and also improve the quality of sleep and in particular encourage deep sleep.
How ice baths can help pain and muscle recovery
The ice plunge is used as a recovery tool by elite athletes as it can reduce muscle soreness after a workout or training session.
Taking an ice bath after exercise can greatly improve sore muscles as part of active recovery following an intense workout. The cold exposure soothes sore muscles and aids metabolic waste post-workout and it can have many other potential benefits when it comes to performance and recovery, such as helping to prevent delayed muscle soreness, helping to repair and limit muscle damage, causing less fatigue, reducing inflammation, as well as have a positive effect on muscle growth.
Many ice plungers have experienced relief from their symptoms within just one ice plunge, while others may need to ice plunge two or three times before they notice any significant changes in how they feel.
Professional athletes have long been taking ice baths as part of their recovery from an intense training session or workout. Methods such as cold hydrotherapy and cryotherapy have been utilised in sports performance and recovery.
Ice baths may also help with performance and endurance if you take an ice bath prior to exercise. There is mounting research that a lower core body temperature and by just lowering body temperature just a few degrees can boost performance, help improve reaction time and help contribute to improved performance.
How ice baths reduce inflammation
Reducing inflammation is a well documented positive benefit of cold water exposure, that occurs by reducing the inflammatory response that naturally occurs following intense exercise. As explored in this article it can form an integral part of active recovery and aid your central nervous system to recover and adapt to the stimulus.
Ice baths can also help reduce inflammation related aches and pains, ice plunges are recommended for anyone with chronic pain or illness as it may give you relief from symptoms if nothing else works. If ice bath immersion is too much when you have an injury then there are other options such as cold water therapy showers that can provide many of the same benefits without getting into ice cold water.
Long term benefits of ice baths
Potential long term health benefits are reported to be reducing the risk of heart disease, increasing production of white blood cells, improving mental wellbeing, activating the nervous system, improving immunity and reduction in symptoms related to colds and flu, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cold therapy improves blood flow and circulation by causing a temporary decrease in skin temperature. The ice bath causes a slight decrease in your skin temperature, making the ice bath a more tolerable option for someone who is feeling tense or restless.
Ice baths may be the change you’ve been looking for
A simple change to your routine, as taking a cold shower or cold bath can have such dramatic and positive impacts on your life, mood, mental and physical state that we thoroughly recommend you give them a try. Why not reach out to us today to book your ice bath experience. Or view our range of ice bath and cold water immersion related guides.
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