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What The Research Says About The Health Benefits Of An Ice Bath?

It is not uncommon to see athletes, fitness fanatics, and weekend warriors soaking in an ice bath after engaging in strenuous physical exercise. The practice of taking a 10 to 15-minute dip in very cold water (50-59°F) after an intense exercise session or competition, also known as cold water immersion (CWI) or cryotherapy, is believed to help alleviate muscle stiffness and soreness following an intense exercise session or competition. Here are wonderful guidelines of ice bath benefits and its risks and side effects.

Ice Baths Are Currently The Subject Of Investigation.

The use of ice baths to treat painful muscles has been around for a long period of time. However, according to a 2017 study That belief could be thrown into disarray by a dependable source.

ice bath benefits - ice water bath

According to the findings of the latest study, earlier beliefs regarding the benefits of ice baths for athletes are incorrect, and that there is no benefit to tired muscles by taking an ice bath.

While the study suggests that active rehabilitation — such as 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise on a stationary bike — is just as effective as CWI in terms of recovery, experts in the field still recommend taking ice baths.

The benefits of taking an ice bath, according to Dr. A. Brion Gardner, an orthopedic surgeon with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, continue to exist.

“The study does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that ice baths are completely ineffective,” he argues. ‘It shows that the previously thought benefits of speedier recovery, decrease of muscle and tissue damage, and improved function are not always accurate,’ says the researcher.

Dr. Thanu Jey, the clinic director at the Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic, concurs with this assessment.

As he points out, “there is always going to be studies that will support both sides of this discussion.” “Despite the fact that much of the evidence is inconclusive, I believe that current best management practices for professional athletes who consistently utilize ice baths are the most appropriate.”

There Are Certain Drawbacks To This Study.

One thing to keep in mind about this study is the small sample size and the young age of the participants.

The participants in the study were nine young males between the ages of 19 and 24 who participated in weight training two to three times per week. More research and larger trials are required in order to disprove the benefits of taking an ice bath.

There Are Five Potential Benefits Of Taking An Ice Bath.

If you’re thinking about taking an ice bath, you might be wondering what the benefits might be and whether it’s worth it to expose your body to such intense cold.

The good news is that taking an ice bath may have some health benefits, especially for persons who exercise or compete in sports, according to several studies.

1. It Provides Relief For Sore And Aching Muscles.

According to Gardner, the most significant benefit of ice baths is most certainly the fact that they simply make the body feel wonderful.

According to him, “cold immersion can provide comfort to painful, burning muscles after a strenuous workout.”

ice bath benefits - Sore And Aching Muscles

2. It Is Beneficial To Your Central Nervous System.

According to Gardner, taking an ice bath can also benefit your central nervous system by promoting sleep and, as a result, helping you feel better because you are less fatigued.

Furthermore, he claims that it can aid in the improvement of response time and explosiveness in future workouts.

3. It Has A Suppressive Effect On The Inflammatory Response.

According to Jey, lowering the local temperature after exercise helps to reduce the inflammatory response, hence limiting the amount of inflammation and allowing you to recover more quickly.

4. It Lessens The Impact Of Heat And Humidity On The Body.

It is possible that taking an ice bath will help to reduce the effects of heat and humidity.

The use of an ice bath before to a long race in situations when the temperature or humidity has increased can drop core body temperature by a few degrees, which can result in greater performance, according to Gardner.

5. It Helps To Strengthen Your Vagus Nerve.

According to trained strength and conditioning specialist Aurimas Juodka, CSCS, CPT, one of the most significant advantages of taking an ice bath is the ability to train your vagus nerve.

‘The vagus nerve is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, and exercising it can help you cope more effectively with stressful conditions,’ says the author.

The Hazards And Side Effects Of Taking An Ice Bath.

When you take an ice bath, the most visible side effect is that you will feel extremely chilly when your body is submerged in the ice water. However, there are some other hazards to consider in addition to this cosmetic side effect.

In Gardner’s opinion, “the greatest risk of taking an ice bath is for persons who already have a cardiovascular condition or high blood pressure.”

“The fall in core temperature, combined with immersion in ice, causes blood vessels to tighten, thereby slowing the flow of blood throughout the body,” he explains. In the case of decreased blood flow, which according to Gardner increases the chance of cardiac arrest or stroke, this can be quite deadly.

ice bath benefits - Hazards And Side Effects

Another possibility is hypothermia, which can occur if you remain submerged in the ice bath for an extended period of time.

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, in particular, should exercise caution when taking an ice bath because they are both associated with a diminished ability to maintain core temperature during periods of significant temperature variation.

Some Pointers On How To Take An Ice Bath.

The following information will help you if you decide to take the plunge and submerge your body in liquid nitrogen.

The Water Temperature In The Ice Bath.

According to Gardner, the temperature of an ice bath should be between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius (50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit).

Time Spent In An Ice Bath.

Spending an excessive amount of time in an ice bath can have negative implications. As a result, you should keep your session to no more than 10 to 15 minutes in length.

Exposure Of The Body.

It is normally recommended that you submerge your complete body in an ice bath to achieve the greatest amount of blood vessel constriction, according to Gardner.

To begin, you may choose to expose your feet and lower legs first, as they are the most vulnerable. As you become more comfortable, you can begin to move closer to your chest.

For Usage At Home.

Taking an ice bath at home is a great way to relax, but Gardner recommends using a thermometer to help you attain the optimal temperature while balancing the ice to water ratio.

If the temperature is too high (over 15°C or 59°F), gradually add ice until the desired temperature is reached. And if the temperature is too low, gradually add warmer water until the ideal temperature is reached.

The timing of the bath.

After a workout or competition, Gardner advises that the sooner you get into an ice bath, the greater the results should be. He claims that if you wait an hour after your workout, some of the healing and inflammatory processes will have already begun or will have been concluded, according to him.

Huntress Reaction Vs. Lewis Reaction

Another strategy for obtaining the advantages of ice on tired muscles is to employ the Hunters Reaction/Lewis Reaction method, which follows the 10-10-10 structure, to get the same results.

For example, “I advocate icing for 10 minutes (but not directly on naked skin), followed by 10 minutes of removal of the ice, and then another 10 minutes of cooling to complete a 20-minute technique that is beneficial for physiological icing,” says Jey.

Cryotherapy.

Alternatively, some people choose full-body cryotherapy chambers, which are essentially cold therapy chambers in an office setting. These treatments are not inexpensive, with prices ranging from $45 to $100 per session.

Use For A Short Period Of Time.

When it comes to determining how often you should take an ice bath, there has only been limited research. It is crucial to note, however, that some specialists believe that acute bouts of CWI to aid in a quicker recovery are acceptable, but that chronic use of CWI should be avoided at all costs.

The Bottom Line

There has only been a little amount of research into the benefits of ice baths. Many experts still believe that utilizing CWI post-workout with ardent exercisers and athletes can be beneficial in the long run.

If you decide to use ice baths as a form of recuperation after an athletic event or rigorous training session, make sure to follow the recommended criteria, which include the recommended time and temperature for the bath.

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