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Are Ice Baths Good For You?

Posted by Lydia Burdett

For centuries, exposure to the cold has been used by athletes as a method of healing and recovery. When the human body is immersed in extreme cold, it triggers a fight or flight response due to the sudden stress. That in turn releases noradrenaline into the body, heightening focus and making you more alert. 

Ice baths are one of the most common techniques used to trigger this bodily response and unlock the benefits of exposure to the cold. Many top athletes have used ice baths for their health benefits for some time, and growing numbers of amateur sportspeople are starting to convert too! Whichever camp you fall into, it’s important that you are fully informed of the benefits and dangers of ice baths before you take the plunge. Read on to find out everything you need to know. 

What is an Ice Bath?

An ice bath is a popular form of cryotherapy that involves immersing yourself in ice-cold water. You can do this at home by simply filling your bathtub with cold water and adding several buckets of ice. You can also buy specialist home ice baths - these are typically pod-shaped portable pools that you can step in and slowly lower your body into. Whatever kind of ice bath you use, it’s generally advised that you persist and stay in for as long as you can up to a limit of fifteen minutes. An ice swimming session shouldn’t last any more than fifteen minutes and you should always warm up afterwards with some clothes or a changing robe ready to throw on.

Are Ice Baths Good For You? 

Filling up and using an ice bath is technically very simple, but there’s no denying that it takes quite a lot of willpower to plunge yourself straight into the ice cold. You’re probably thinking that anybody willing to put themself through the experience must be a little mad or aware of some pretty compelling benefits!

So the bottom line: are ice baths good for you? When done safely, they are. Ice baths have numerous priceless health-related benefits. The top benefits of ice swimming include:

Muscle Recovery

Ice baths are fantastic for quick muscle recovery, as they reduce muscular inflammation, as well as swelling and achiness. It also flushes out lactic acid buildup. This reduction of post-workout pain is one of the major benefits attributed to cold water swimming after sessions of intense physical activity.

Boosts Metabolism

In its attempt to regulate heat in such a cold environment, the body and your metabolism must work much harder to stay warm. As a result, you’ll find that calories are burned much faster when you’re in an ice bath. The colder you are, the more desperate the body is to warm up and thus the more calories you burn off.

Improves Circulation

You’ll also find that your circulation will get a noticeable boost during a cold water swimming session. Your heart will be forced to work harder to pump more blood to the organs than usual. This helps to flush out toxins lingering in your system, as well as reduce muscle inflammation, which is one of the main reasons that athletes often make use of ice baths after intense sessions in their chosen sport.

Helps Mental Health

Whenever the question ‘are ice baths good for you?’ comes up, one of the often neglected but exceptionally important areas of benefit is the boost to your mental health. An ice bath makes for a fantastic mindfulness exercise, drawing your concentration away from your anxieties and into the moment. You’ll also benefit from an increased production of endorphins to combat stress, allowing you to feel great after you finish your ice bath.

Are Ice Baths Dangerous?

Are ice baths good for you? Yes, they are. However, they are also potentially dangerous and need to be regulated in order to prevent you from doing more harm to yourself than good, particularly for those with underlying health issues. Always consult with your doctor before undertaking extreme changes to your fitness regime. Ice bathing will trigger a natural sense of fear, so it is important to ensure that you are sure that you won’t come to any harm as part of the treatment.

The potential risks of ice baths include:

Hypothermia and Frostbite

Naturally, exposing yourself to intense cold temperatures runs the risk of suffering from hypothermia or frostbite. As a general rule, do not stay in an ice bath for more than 15 minutes, and if your skin begins to change colour or you begin experiencing fatigue, get out of the bath immediately.

Heart Disease

People suffering from cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure are strongly urged to stay away from ice baths. The constriction of your blood vessels and consequent reduction in blood flow put you at significant risk of cardiac arrest or stroke.

To sum up, are ice baths good for you? Yes they are! The health benefits of ice baths are fantastic. However, it has to be treated with care and respect - the potential dangers of an ice bath should never be underestimated. Remember, keep to a maximum of 15 minutes, if you begin feeling tired or changing colour then get out immediately, and if you suffer from a cardiovascular disease do not engage in ice bathing at all.