Since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, ice baths have been shown to be an effective treatment for, amongst other things, reducing muscle pains and soreness. Though the idea of an ice bath might not seem enticing, you might warm up (or cool down) to the idea once you learn a bit more about ice baths, and their benefits.
What’s Cooler Than Cool? Ice Baths!
Ice Bath Benefits: How They Help You
Ice baths are great for many things, including:
1. Easing Sore Muscles
There’s a reason athletes get into ice water after a rigorous workout. Ice cold water causes the blood vessels to constrict, slowing down blood flow throughout the body, and helping to reduce swelling, which can be the cause of some of the pain post-workout.
2. Cooling Your Body Down
It should go without saying that ice baths also cool you down – quickly. They’re often used for marathon runners who experience heat injuries and are a great way to lower your core body temperature, reducing the risk of heat-based injuries.
3. Boosting Mental Health
Less-known (but just as important) on the list of ice bath benefits, taking a dip in the freezing cold is a great way to build up your resilience, and focus your breathing, which can be applied to other parts of your life – like dealing with stress!
4. Improving Sleep
While it’s not backed by much hard evidence, people who frequently take ice baths have reported being able to sleep better, and have shown less fatigue overall.
5. Aiding Recovery
One of the big ice bath benefits? Getting out. When you get out of an ice bath, your blood vessels re-open, increasing circulation. That means nutrient-rich blood flows to your muscles, which helps get rid of metabolic waste that’s built up during exercise, which means your body recovers faster.
6. Strengthening Your Immune System
There’s some evidence to back this one up, too. A Czech study found that being immersed in cold water 3 times a week showed a boost in overall immunity.
7. Preparing You For Your Next Workout
This one ties into the point about aiding recovery. Ice baths help your body to recover faster, which gives it more time to prepare for the next workout – that means more gain, and less pain!
How To Take Ice Baths At Home
If you want to make the most of a cold dip, you need to know the best temperature for ice baths. While you can go to a spa, gym, or buy yourself an at-home ice bath system, you don’t need to overcomplicate it. All you need is ice, water, a thermometer, a timer, and a bath (of course).
Here’s how to do it:
1. Run the bath
Start by running cold water, and put your thermometer in.
2. Add Ice
Start adding ice cubes (as many as you’d like) to the water.
3. Get In The Tub
The ideal temperature for ice baths is 50-59°F (that’s 10 – 15°C). Once your water reaches that point, you can start getting into the tub.
4. Set The Timer
A popular question is “ice baths – how long?”. Surprisingly, it’s more of an exact science than you’d think.
Scientists say that 5 to 10 minutes (depending on your tolerance) is the optimal amount of time. Any more than that, and the ice bath’s benefits stop working, and you put yourself at risk of hypothermia.
5. Get Out (Carefully)
Once you’ve endured the cold for 5 to 10 minutes, it’s time to get out. Make sure you do so slowly – you don’t want to slip!
Ice Baths vs Cold Showers: Is One Better Than the Other?
While it might seem like they’re one and the same, ice baths are significantly more beneficial if you’re looking to make the most of the benefits the cold has to offer. The biggest differentiating factor is the consistent temperature.
Ice baths are a pool of cold water that remains at the same temperature, whereas showers have very brief moments of warmth as the water hits different parts of the body.
How Often Should I Take Ice Baths?
Most athletes and professionals suggest an ice bath right after a workout to get the cold working on your system as soon as possible. As for regularity, you should take ice baths as often as you want to – it really is a personal preference.
What Are The Risks Of Ice Baths?
While they’re great for you, ice baths can be dangerous.
If you suffer from:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Conditions that increase cold sensitivity
- Open wounds
Then it’s best to avoid the icy cold water, as it could exacerbate any pre-existing conditions.
If you’re working out hard, and want to speed up your recovery, consider getting into ice cold water. While it’s certainly not for everybody, they’ve got a host of benefits and can be great for you (as long as you don’t mind the cold.)