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How Does Ice Bath Therapy Work?

CDFIT Cold Plunge

You may have seen athletes and fitness enthusiasts plunging into an arctic bath post-workout or after other physical activities. Also referred to as Cryotherapy, cold thermogenesis (CT), or cold water immersion (CWI), this practice involves your entire body being submerged for 2 to 10 minutes in a tub of extremely cold water (39-55° Fahrenheit). This is especially ideal after an intense workout session or competition, as it helps reduce muscle soreness and pain. Or first thing in the morning to simulate the vascular system, charge mitochondria, and stimulate brown fat growth.


The Benefits of Ice Baths

As you consider practicing ice bath therapy, you may wonder what the potential benefits are and if it’s worth subjecting your body to the shock and discomfort of being submerged in cold water.

Luckily, there are plenty of benefits to ice bath therapy, especially for people who consistently work out or are competitive athletes. The following are seven benefits of doing ice baths:

  • Reduce Muscle Soreness

    According to Yale Medicine Sports Doctor Elizabeth Gardner, MD, “When exposed to cold water, your blood vessels constrict and get smaller. When you get out of the water, the change in temperature causes them to rapidly re-open, which can help to flush the muscles’ metabolic waste products. “This rapid dilation of the blood vessels also deliver much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which in theory should help them recover after a hard workout.”

  • Helps Cool Your Body Down

    One of the more obvious benefits, an ice bath helps cool your body down faster. A study published by the Journal of Athletic Training discovered that taking a cold shower (synonymous with an ice bath) may help relieve exertional hyponatremia. That is a low plasma, serum, or blood sodium concentration (below 135 milliequivalents/liter) that develops during or up to 24 hours following prolonged physical activity.

  • Boosts Your Mental Health

    One of the lesser-known benefits is that ice baths can boost your mental health and produce an equilibrium. “Most people do not find the ice bath experience pleasant at first; it can be frankly painful,” Dr. Gardner stated. “However, this improves with relaxing, focusing on your breathing, and even some distraction. People will build up a tolerance for the cold and come to find it an important part of their recovery process. This resilience and adaptation have obvious expectations elsewhere in exercise, sports, and life,” Dr. Gardner explained.

  • Improve Sleeping Habits

    Owner of Philadelphia’s Hit Fitness and personal trainer Dan Bowmen, NPTI, NASM, states that ice baths might help improve your sleep. The cold water positively affects the central nervous system and overall blood flow, “which allows you to feel and sleep better after spending ten to fifteen minutes in it,” Bowmen explained.

  • Reduce Risk of Injury

    As Dr. Gardner states, ice baths can directly decrease soreness while assisting with recovery. Bowmen added that ice baths also help reduce your risk of injury due to the properties of ice water.

  • Helps Prepare Your Body For The Next Workout

    Additionally, Bowmen explained one would be setting their body up for future success by being proactive and taking a dip in an ice bath. “This allows you to be better prepared for the next workout, which can be higher quality,” Bowmen stated.

  • Helps Boost Your Immunity

    There is concrete scientific evidence that ice baths work to boost the immune system. A study published in the journal PLoS One discovered that people who take cold showers are approximately 30 percent less likely to call out sick from school or work due to a cold or airborne illness.

Why Do People Use Whole Body Ice Baths?

Full-body ice baths are exceptionally beneficial to your body externally and internally.

It is reported that basketball player, LeBron James, spends approximately $1.5 million to maintain his body. Basketball is quite a rigorous physical sport built around using almost every muscle in the body. As players move up and down the court, their muscles are prone to injuries such as ankle strain, knee swelling, pain, and sprains.

LeBron and other athletes regularly utilize ice baths to ensure their bodies are at their peak performance in their careers. Athletes take ice baths to reduce swelling and increase blood flow for a speedy recovery after an intense workout session or game. Ice baths usually last about six to eight minutes. Whole-body cryotherapy speeds up injury recovery, reduces lactic acid buildup, and reduces inflammation.

You do not have to be a renowned athlete to reap the benefits of a full-body ice bath; this method is great for the average person to preserve and improve the quality of their body.

What Do I Wear During an Ice Bath?

Wear a long-sleeved shirt/sweater and shorts when taking an ice bath. This helps regulate your body temperature while submerged in the ice bath.

How Will I Feel During This Session?

During an ice bath session, the main sensation is cold as your body submerges into the icy water. Ice bath therapy is not a normal experience and is a unique and challenging physical and mental experience for most people. To prepare, it is best to take cold showers leading up to your first ice bath.


How Often Can I Have A Whole Body Ice Bath Session?

Only one cryotherapy session (ice baths) is exceptionally beneficial, but it is most effective when used regularly. Some athletes choose to practice cryotherapy about twice a day. It is normal for some to do an ice bath for ten days straight and follow up once a month.

The History Behind Ice Baths

Using ice bath therapy to relieve muscle soreness can be traced back to antiquity. The origin of an ice water bath is the act of submerging oneself in cold water for the potential health benefits it may provide. The ancient Greeks discovered the concept of the term thermalism, which is the use of the pressure of moving water of various temperatures to massage and relieve muscle soreness while stimulating circulation. Some of the first cold and hot water therapy treatments were for problems like skin disease and muscle and joint pain.

The Greek philosophers, Hippocrates and Plato, both pioneers in medicine and philosophy during their time, were among the first people to study the effects hot and cold water had on the entire body while documenting their prevailing benefits for scientific purposes.

In the 70s, Japan used this practice to provide relief for patients with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Subsequently, ice bath therapy gained traction in Europe in the ’90s. In the past decade, ice baths were introduced in the United States. As the practice spread across the nation, the ailments that could be addressed were numerous. The latest marketing claims that cryotherapy may help with asthma and even Alzheimer’s disease. Cold water temperature is an exceptionally important component of the Wim Hof Method, which teaches how to consciously influence your body to utilize its three pillars; controlled breathing, exposure to cold, and commitment.

Ice Bath Therapy Charleston, SC

It is important to view the body as a whole unit. Ice bath therapy is a powerful practice for the body and its overall well-being. CDFIT approaches each session with an unparalleled experience of individual and holistic approaches to physical fitness regarding strengthening, stabilizing, and rehabilitation.