A practice that has gained a lot of momentum in recent years has been the ice bath. Also called cold water immersion, the practice of using ice cold water or getting cold exposure can help people in many parts of their physical health.
While many people are trying to take control of their health by incorporating cold water immersion, it’s important to make sure that if you are looking to benefit by setting up an ice bath at home, you do it safely. Let’s show you how ice baths can help you, and how to do it right. With our top tips for ice bathing at home.
What Are Ice Baths Supposed To Do?
An ice bath provides a number of benefits for the mind and body. For people undergoing strenuous workouts, an ice bath can help to improve recovery by reducing inflammation.
An ice bath works by changing the way that the blood and fluids flow through your body. When you sit in cold water, your blood vessels constrict and when you get out, they dilate.
Taking an ice bath helps to flush away waste after a workout, notably via the lymph, a clear fluid made of white blood cells that needs stimulation to detoxify the body.
Are Ice Baths Good for You?
As ice baths stimulate your lymph nodes, this process helps flush increases blood flow and helps your body to recover by flooding your cells with oxygen and nutrients, which can be very beneficial after an intense workout, such as resistance training.
Additionally, ice baths can prepare you mentally. The ice bath experience, from a mental perspective, means you are challenging your body as you are exposing it to different stresses, which, over time, can reduce the sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight” response) and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” response), so you can feel more at ease in tense situations.
In many ways, having an ice bath means that you can become more resilient, which will serve to prepare you for different challenges in life.
How Often Should You Ice Bath?
Cold water immersion is a very delicate practice, and how much you should take ice baths will depend on a few areas:
Your tolerance to cold.
The level of inflammation in your body.
Your overall health.
Being exposed to the shock of the cold can cause heart attacks, therefore it’s important to make sure you assess your level of tolerance.
How Long Should You Ice Bath For?
The upper limit for an ice bath is recommended at 15 minutes.
It is important to work up to this without pushing your body beyond its limits. However, if you notice yourself feeling light-headed or close to passing out, get out of the bath instantly.
If you want to do it safely, have somebody supervise you when you are trying to work up to the 15-minute mark.
What Are the Disadvantages of Ice Baths?
Can Cause Hypothermia
Exposure to extreme cold can be very risky.
If you submerge your body at 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) for over 20 minutes, it is at this point where you can start to lose strength and coordination, which are the first two signs of hypothermia.
When preparing an ice bath, ensure the temperature is within 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit).
Can Hinder Muscle Growth
Many people use ice baths as a way to recover after a strenuous training session. While they help people recover faster by reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), ice baths taken immediately after a workout could hinder the healing process of your muscles because they shut off the recovery response too quickly.
After a strenuous workout, it’s a good idea to wait a few hours until your core body temperature has returned to normal.
Could Be Risky for People With a Heart Condition
Ice baths are incredibly shocking to the body. Because cold water compresses your blood vessels, this can reduce blood flow to your arms and legs, making it harder for your heart to pump blood around the body.
Taking an ice bath increases heart rate and blood pressure, which could result in a heart attack or cardiac condition. If you have a preexisting cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, it is important to ease into this slowly, such as by sitting in cool water or slightly warmer water and acclimatising to colder water. But it’s always a good idea to get medical advice if you have any concerns.
How Do I Turn My Bath Into an Ice Bath?
You can turn your regular bath into an ice bath very easily. The best way to set up an ice bath at home is through the following:
Fill Your Bath With Cold Water
Fill the bath halfway with ice and cold water. Two to three bags of ice cubes or crushed ice should be enough to achieve the perfect temperature based on your tolerance level.
Prepare Your Post Ice Bath Clothing
After taking ice baths, you will need to dry off and get into warm clothes quickly to bring your core body temperature back up.
Wear the Appropriate Clothing
You will need to protect your skin from ice burns. Shorts and a t-shirt should suffice, or if you want to minimise the cold sensation, wear thicker layers.
Set a Timer
If you want, you can set a timer on your phone to make sure you do not stay in the bath for longer than the recommended 15 minutes.
Enter the Bath Slowly
Putting your entire body can be too much of a shock, so take your time to submerge your feet, legs, and waist into the bath.
Doing this too quickly can be shocking, so make sure you breathe deeply as you enter the bath. Distraction tactics such as entertaining reading material can also help.
Spending Time in the Bath
When you have adjusted to the temperature of the water, you can start to submerge parts of your body slowly. Ice bath submersion is a very delicate practice and any form of cold immersion involves being slow and controlled.
When you exit the bath, make sure you leave slowly. Remove your wet clothes, use a hot towel to dry off, and put on the warm layers you left nearby. You can also warm up faster by drinking hot tea.
Can You Buy an Ice Bath?
It is possible to buy an ice bath, also known as a cold tub or cold plunge, and install it in your home. You could install it outside, which can benefit you if you are getting used to ice water on a hot and humid day.
There are a wide variety of cold water therapy tubs at different price tags. However, it’s not essential to purchase an ice bath as you can use a bath tub or hot tub at home. Another common practice is to purchase a large ice tub or bin, as you can submerge the body completely, and for cheap.
What Is Better for You, Cold Baths or Hot Baths?
Hot showers can benefit the body by soothing stiff joints and sore muscles. Cold or ice baths can reduce inflammation and help manage pain, as well as provide the aforementioned mental benefits.
Therefore, choosing the best approach could depend on your unique preferences and your ailments.
For example, if you have a lot of inflammation and experience a lot of pain, having ice baths or cold showers may benefit you more.
However, some people also choose to do both, also known as contrast water therapy.
Is It Weird To Have a Cold Bath?
For some people, having a cold bath may seem like a strange practice, but it’s become more popular in recent years due to practitioners like Wim Hof, but many people are also taking part in cold water swimming because it makes them feel better within themselves.
For the health benefits, as well as the mental health ones, having an ice bath could be beneficial for you. Incorporating cold water immersion at home is a great way to take control of your health, but you must remember to ease into it slowly and safely.
Ice baths may have a number of amazing benefits, and cold therapy has become wildly popular in recent years for many reasons, such as soothing sore muscles and helping people get used to stress in life.
The potential benefits of ice baths and cold water immersion could mean ice baths may become an integral part of people’s lives, not just for the general ice bath benefits, but the fact that taking an ice bath can help us all face up to the tensions within ourselves.