Ice baths and similar cold water treatments have long been considered as an effective healing means for a variety of reasons.
But exactly what benefits can ice baths provide? For what type of injury or situation is their use best advised?
As a brief overview, ice baths have been known to help improve breathing patterns and lift moods in addition to the potentially more well known physical benefits they offer such as aiding with inflammation and soothing muscles.
Especially if you lead a very active lifestyle that is packed with exercise, or consider yourself a ‘gym rat’, you could very well enjoy numerous advantages by including an ice bath in your typical recovery process.
This article will look at the main ways an ice bath can be good for you, what they entail and the best times to indulge in one.
What Is An Ice Bath?
An ice bath essentially engulfs anybody indulging in one in ice cold water, and can be considered a form of immersion therapy. It is simple to create an ice bath in your own home – just run your cold bath taps into the bathtub and add multiple buckets of ice to the mix. For the best results (if likely not the most comfortable!), you should aim for an ice bath temperature between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
As aforementioned, ice baths deliver a variety of mental and physical advantages to those who quite literally take the plunge into the cold. They can aid both preparation and recovery for light or rigorous exercise or competition, in terms of physiological and psychological wellbeing.
Why Are Ice Baths Good For You?
To answer the question posed in the very title of this blog, it is perhaps best to separate their effects into short-term and long-term prospects on the body and mind.
Basically, ice baths will always offer health benefits when drawn and completed safely and properly. A single ice bath offers advantages earlier alluded to like the reduction in inflammation and soothing of muscles, as well as improvements in breathing patterns especially as it pertains to sport or exercise. You could also enjoy expanded energy levels and a more enlightened mood off the back of your first or a very infrequent ice bath experience.
Meanwhile, those who regularly partake in ice baths can prosper from all these benefits and more on a larger and longer scale. An improvement in mental health can be expected, in addition to an increased metabolism. Plus, in what will likely be a key incentive for any particularly keen sportspeople, frequent ice baths can have a very positive effect on breathing management, enabling you to find reserves in periods of physical unease or pain during practice or events. Ultimately, this could give you a significant upper hand against an opponent or opponents in competitive outings.
What are the main advantages of ice baths?
Central Nervous System Stimulus
The immediate sensation when you enter an ice bath will shock the central nervous system, enhancing alertness levels right from the get go. You might deem it a drastic measure, but an ice bath or freezing cold shower first thing in the morning is sure to provide you with a mega-refreshing jolt to properly wake you up and set you up for the day ahead.
Muscle Repair and Recovery
For any keen athletes or those who participate in rigorous exercise from day to day, ice baths should really be included as part of a regular routine due to the multiple ways they can assist with muscle aches and soreness. In addition to providing a positive effect on swelling and inflammation, ice baths have also been proven to help with the eradication of lactic acid that could have built up in the body, so you’ll be ready to go again, much quicker.
As suggested with the high level of stimulus associated with the use of an ice bath, an immediate shift in breathing patterns is likely to occur after entry. And, quite simply, it will be almost impossible to not embrace new breathing techniques to adjust to the reduced temperature that has caused a ‘shock to the system.’ These will stand you in good stead for times of adversity in sporting situations, and help you find the right way to channel your breathing when in physical discomfort during activity.
Exposure to freezing cold water expands the brown adipose tissue found within the body, which counts amongst its primary functions transforming energy into heat to keep our bodies nice and warm. As such, those that indulge in ice baths on the regular can enjoy enhanced metabolism benefits.
Mental Health Improvement
Again somewhat linked to the initial ‘shock therapy’ that an ice bath offers, they can offer a form of mental reset. Basically, an ice bath can act as an ideal environment to clear the mind, release stress and ultimately put you in a better mood all round.
Are There Any Disadvantages To Ice Baths?
Although there are a multitude of beneficial effects of ice baths, it must be noted that they can be deemed somewhat hazardous to people with underlying health troubles. It is imperative that you consult a doctor before beginning a course of ice bath treatment.
That said, don’t be alarmed if your initial ice bath experience leaves you feeling somewhat shocked. Even for healthy participants, the cold water immersion can activate a sense of natural fear as your brain and body communicate through fledgling discomfort before your altered breathing techniques come to the fore.
When Is The Best Time To Take An Ice Bath?
The ideal time to take an ice bath is in the aftermath of a vigorous workout or exercise routine – they are particularly popular amongst combat sports athletes, and can greatly assist with muscle fatigue following strength or weight training, for instance. An excellent recovery vice, ice baths will alleviate swelling and inflammation, and help rid the body of any lingering aches and pains that could potentially prevent you from getting back in the gym or straight back into whatever form of exercise you frequent in.
How Long Should An Ice Bath Last?
A few factors can determine how long an ice bath should last, and there’s a significantly wide range of timespan involved. An effective ice bath can last from as little as five minutes all the way up to an hour plus, and it is likely that you will grow more tolerant to longer ice baths the more you get used to them. Basically, don’t be jumping in for the first time and expecting to be able to hack a 60-minute shift!
Start with a quicker ice bath in the region of five to 10 minutes long, and build up to higher increments of time as you grow in comfort and acclimatise to the sensation and effects associated with them.
Essentially, the very entry into an ice bath and the first minute or so spent in one is notoriously the most difficult. If you can adjust your breathing to endure the sensation from the off, it will enable your muscles to relax and for the experience to become a much more tolerable experience. Or, whisper it, even enjoyable.
Contact Big Bathroom Shop For All Things Baths
For further information surrounding ice baths, or help and advice pertaining to the benefits of any sorts of baths or to share your own helpful bathroom related recovery processes, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Big Bathroom Shop team.
John has a background in sports journalism, and lists content writing amongst his primary passions. He provides expert bathroom trends commentary and analysis, as well as offering meticulously researched answers to the most frequently asked bathroom posers.