From easing muscle soreness to hastening post-workout recovery to boosting energy, cold-water immersion therapy has become a popular method of treatment. There are multiple different forms, like a cold shower, outdoor swim in chilly water, or an ice bath, something readily available online by searching ice bath for sale.
Professional athletes and trainers generally recommend a water temperature that ranges between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit and immersing yourself for five to 10 minutes. Medical experts say the reason cold water helps with pain and muscle soreness is that it causes the blood vessels to constrict. That reduces blood flow to limit swelling and inflammation.
Ice baths and other forms of cold-water immersion therapy are said to bring a number of other benefits too.
A Faster Cool Down
Cold-water immersion therapy can help lower your core body temperature faster than resting in a cool environment. If you’re out running on a hot day, this is an important benefit. A 2015 meta-analysis found that overheated people who immersed themselves entirely in cold water at temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit cooled twice as quickly as compared to those who didn’t.
Strengthening the Immune System
There’s also evidence that regular use of this type of therapy, meaning daily exposure to cold water over a period of weeks or months, can strengthen the immune system to improve one’s ability to fight illness and disease. Research has found that those who practice cold water immersion techniques tend to have fewer symptoms after being exposed to bacterial infections.
This was due to the body producing fewer pro-inflammatory cytokines and more anti-inflammatory compounds in response to the infection.
Better Brain Functioning and Mood
An ice bath can even enhance brain functioning. That’s because catecholamines, which are hormones made in the adrenaline glands such as dopamine and epinephrine, are released during the process.
Cold exposure in the form of an ice bath, in particular, activates the sympathetic nervous system, which speeds metabolic processes, strengthens and tightens muscles, speeds the heart rate, and more. It also boosts endorphins that reduce soreness and pain in strained muscles while sending electrical impulses to the brain. That produces an antidepressant effect that may even relieve depression and have antipsychotic effects.
Ice baths can help those who struggle to get quality sleep on a regular basis. That’s because cold immersion therapy has an effect on regulating cortisol levels.
Cortisol is the hormone well known to be associated with stress, produced by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is partly responsible for coordinating sleep cycles. If that’s disrupted through chronic stress, poor nutrition, or illness, it can lead to sleep disturbances like insomnia. Ice baths can lower cortisol levels to ensure the proper functioning of the HPA axis, helping to calm the nervous system, reduce stress and improve sleep.
Enhancing Weight Loss
While proper diet and exercise are an important part of the equation, ice baths are said to enhance weight loss. That’s because cold temperatures can change the kind of fat that the body produces, replacing white with brown fat that’s known to trigger a higher calorie burn.
Basically, cold-water immersion therapy tells the body to burn more calories by increasing the metabolic process. The brown fat can only be activated when you get cold as it produces heat to help maintain body temperature. When we burn more calories it has a positive effect on both the metabolic system and weight loss.