Key things you should know about ice baths

Ice baths and other forms of cold water therapy such as cold showers, ice baths, or swimming in cold water may benefit your health in several ways. Here, we look at some of the things that you need to know.
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Ice baths are not as drastic as other forms of cryotherapy 

Ice baths, also known as cold water immersion or cold hydrotherapy, are a type of cryotherapy that is not nearly as intense as other forms of treatment. In contrast to cryotherapy treatments, which require exposure to temperatures below negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit, ice baths are not quite as frigid. The optimal water temperature for an ice bath is really 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit /10-15 degrees Celsius, which is low enough to chill your body but not cold enough to have it truly freeze. 

Timing for your ice bath is important

It is important to remember that timing is everything when taking an ice bath. So, when is the most appropriate time to take an ice plunge, exactly? For athletes or those looking to utilise ice baths for muscle recovery and to combat fatigue then right after your workout is when your muscles are screaming to be cooled, and this is when the healing can begin. In the event that you wait too long, the procedure will have already begun and the benefits will not be as apparent. However for those looking to utilise ice baths for more holistic then the timing can vary, for some it may be first thing in the day to galvanise their spirit, awaken their body and sharpen their mind, enabling them to feel energised and ready to tackle the day. For others it may be to aid sleep and therefore as part of a bedtime routine would be more suitable. Trusting your body, and knowing what you hope to gain from cold water immersion will greatly influence the best timing for you to take an ice dip.

Short but sweet is the way forward

It is vital that you do not stay immersed in an ice bath for an extended period of time, lest you suffer from the potential adverse effects. Because of the risk of hypothermia and frostbite, it is advised that you should not stay in the ice bath for longer than 15 minutes. If you notice that your skin is changing colours, it is critical that you get out. Most often just a few minutes is enough for the desired impact and benefits.

Ice water immersion helps your muscles after a workout

This is how an ice bath works: When your blood vessels are exposed to cold water, they tighten and become smaller. And when you get out of the water, the sudden drop in temperature leads them to quickly re-open, which can aid in flushing metabolic waste products from the muscles’ mitochondria. This rapid dilation of the blood vessels also delivers much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which should, in principle, aid in the recovery of muscles after a strenuous exercise session. Taking ice baths post-exercise has long been adopted by athletes and sportspeople to aid recovery, as have old cold exposure practices as part of an active recovery by utilising cold immersion and exposure.

A dip in an ice tub can prevent muscle soreness

There is evidence that soaking in an ice bath after strenuous exercise helps minimize the onset of delayed muscle soreness when compared to simply resting the muscles. It is believed that this occurs as a result of decreasing inflammation. Submerging in a cold bath or taking an ice bath to soothe sore muscles it a great way to aid recovery after an intense workout or training session, the cold exposure from taking a bath in ice water can help in reducing inflammation, increase blood flow and prevent delayed onset muscle soreness, whilst enabling a quicker recovery.

Ice baths can cool your body down

One of the more obvious advantages of taking an ice bath is that it helps you relax. It will aid in the rapid cooling of your body. According to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, taking a cold shower, which is very similar to taking an ice bath, can assist in the reduction of exertional hyperthermia – high body temperature after exercise. Meanwhile, complete immersion therapy proved even more successful in lowering high body temperatures than partial immersion therapy. Ice bathing and cold water immersion, in general, are becoming increasingly popular as the science and benefits become more widely understood.

Ice baths can help your mental health

Ice baths may also have positive effects on one’s mental health. At first, most people find the experience of taking an ice bath to be uncomfortable. It can even be quite painful in some cases.  However, relaxation, concentration on your breathing techniques and even some diversion can help to alleviate discomfort. Many people may develop a tolerance to the cold over time, and they will learn to regard it as a crucial part of their recovery process as a result. In addition, this resilience and adaptation have great relevance elsewhere in fitness, athletics, and life. There is also mounting research that cold water therapy can positively affect mood, cognition and brain function. Taking ice baths regularly can have many benefits that we are only just beginning to understand.

An ice bath can help with your sleep

Bathing in ice or very cold water may help you sleep better. Using cold water can have a beneficial effect on the central nervous system,  which can help you sleep and feel better after spending ten to fifteen minutes in it.

Cold water immersion can reduce your risk of injury

Ice baths can help with healing by reducing soreness, which in turn helps to stimulate recovery. This will assist you in lowering your chance of injury.

They can boost your immune system and metabolism

We all know that eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise will help you achieve your fitness objectives. However, by exposing your body to cooler temperatures as well, you can influence the behaviour of your fat cells. The body includes two types of fat: harmful white fat and good brown fat. White fat is the more harmful of the two. In contrast to the tissue found in white fat cells, the tissue found in brown fat cells is capable of converting energy into heat. Heat generation is a process that has been found to aid in the regulation of metabolism and the avoidance of weight gain in some people. Immersions in cold water have been proven to activate this process, which can assist to enhance your immune system while also helping you to manage your weight.

There are other natural ways to spark your flu-fighting system into action without the use of vitamins or other medications. Submersion in an ice bath and the use of alternate breathing methods have both been shown to be effective in triggering an immune system adaption response. A technique known as “controlled hypoxia” is used to achieve this result, which involves triggering the stress hormone adrenaline. Ice bath therapy, by exposing the body to physiological stressors, forces the body to perform outside of its comfort zone, resulting in a direct effect on immunological function.

Safety and health considerations before taking an ice bath

Keep your exposure to a minimum. Limit your time in the tub to no more than 15 minutes.

Do not do it while alone.  Allow someone to supervise you the first few times you practice.

Understand your own body. In the event that you are sensitive to cold, have a cardiovascular condition, or have high blood pressure, you should first visit your doctor.

Put on some clothes. This will aid in the protection of vulnerable places.

Go up to your waist in water. Begin by submerging only the bottom half of your body at first.

If you would like to have an ice bath experience you can book with the Urban Ice Man through the website here.

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Ryan Abbott

Founder of Urban Ice Tribe

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