7 Ice Bath Benefits You Never Knew: Athletes and Body Building

Updated on  February 26, 2023
William Toro

Published By:  William Toro

Fact Checked by: Bridget MacDonald, RDN

Our Methodology

We personally test every products with our researchers, trainers and members. All products are ordered anonymously. We evaluate on point based system to determine ranking under each category. Learn More

Putting yourself in an ice bath does not seem as inviting as a relaxing hot bath with scented candles, a stack of magazines, or your favorite book. But research suggests that an ice bath has numerous health benefits, and if your health doctor approves, you should try it out.

Research claims that ice baths promote faster recovery by reducing soreness, tiredness, and muscle pain and significantly boosting your health. (1)

So here we will go over some of the benefits that will convince you to dip into freezing water from head to toe occasionally.

A Long History Of Ice Baths

An ice bath is also known as cold water immersion or cold therapy. Fitness enthusiasts and athletes prefer it. Before diving deep into the history of ice baths, let’s briefly go over what this process entails. (2)

So taking an ice bath means taking a dip in extreme cold water at 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). You have to stay in for ten to fifteen minutes (1), or it could stay for as low as 4-5 mins provided the temperature is 6 to 10 degree celsius (42.8 to 50 degree Fahrenheit). 

Going back in time, there is evidence of Spartans of Ancient Greece taking an ice bath. Other than this, Hippocrates, a leading Greek physician from the classical period, used to recommend ice baths as a treatment for fevers, ulcers, and hemorrhages. (3)

Pro athletes such as LeBron James have used this method after an intense workout. It is also used by the US military as well. Doctors also resort to this method when bringing down the core temperature of their patients in a state of emergency becomes crucial.

There is also some research on the chilly dip and its potential benefits. The study published claims that a dip in a cold bath is a perfect way to ease sore muscles and make them recover faster. (4)

However, to prove its 100% effectiveness, more research is required.

Ice Bath Benefits

A Deep Dive Into The Benefits Of Ice Bath

If you are ready to take a dip in an ice-cold bath, otherwise known as cold water immersion, then let’s go over some of the benefits that research claims:

Induces Fat Loss

After taking ice bath , your body releases culture protein which metabolizes fat which helps in speeding up the fat loss

Recovery From Workout Soreness

The moment person workouts his body develops lactic acid , (lactic threshold) which is the exhausting factor for the athlete, 5-6 mins of ice bath squeezes out lactic acid from the body which helps in faster recovery etc. Ice bath also makes for great recovery post workout.

Athletes have long utilized ice baths to increase their training intensity and speed.

However, the doctor who popularized the use of ice for exercise recovery in the 1970s distanced himself from such claims. He thinks it could even postpone healing these days. (5)

Even though most people nowadays use an ice pack to relieve a hurting muscle, studies on whether it genuinely aids recovery are still ambiguous. However, when people start to embrace the power of ice-cold water, they can quickly initiate the workout recovery process with experiencing less fatigue.

Adds A Bit Of A Cooling Effect

Surprisingly, a cold bath might help you calm down your nerves considerably faster than in other ways.

Researchers found out in 2015, after a thorough assessment of 19 trials, that full-body contact with cold water cooled overheated people twice as fast as other approaches. (6)

Whether you have just completed a challenging workout or live somewhere where the temperature is very high, an ice bath that helps you cool down rapidly is essential in various scenarios. Ice bath benefits also cover cooling down of the central nervous system.

Reduces Stress

For all the folks shaking their legs in stress and biting their nails in worry, ice baths work to help you calm down. So how does it work?

The cold stimulation from ice baths, especially in the neck area, activates the vagus nerve. Activation of the vagus nerve leads to slow heart rate and reduces stress eventually. (7)

Moreover, researchers also found that cold exposure seamlessly improves the capacity and performance of the central nervous system. It is necessarily true that a healthy nervous system can help you sleep and feel multiple folds better during stressful situations. (8)

Boosts Your Mood

You can easily fight the blues by taking a cold, ice bath daily. In a study done in 2014, cold baths were found to be having an effect similar to an antidepressant. (8)

Moreover, according to scientific studies, cold receptors transmit a jolt of joy throughout the body to the brain's nerve endings, enhancing the psychological and emotional state. (8)

A few more statistics and scientific studies are required to help us determine its actual effects and correlation between sadness and ice baths to a higher degree. However, it is enough to say that your life will be slightly calmer and happier with ice baths.

Good For Your Immune System

We can't say it will boost your immune system because that is not a thing, but it will contribute towards keeping it healthy. Let's quote another research conducted in 2016; people who take cold showers (not tubs, but a similar concept) are nearly 30% less likely to call in sick to school or work. (9)

Blood Rush

Another promising benefit of an ice bath is that it boosts circulation. Blood rushes to your head and vital organs when you dip in cold water. As a result, your heart needs to pump a little faster, which means your body is getting extra nutrients and vital oxygen. (10)

As a side note, a ten-minute long walk has the same effect. It can give your system a boost. If you think walking is not for you, you should go for an ice bath. (11)

Other than this, some claims state that an ice bath prior to any performance seamlessly lowers core body temperature, resulting in improved performance.

Let’s hope that all of these benefits are enough to convince you to enjoy cold water immersion.

Taking An Ice Bath: What Is The Right Way To Do It?

Ice baths might seem a bit daring. Therefore there is a proper procedure for it. By following these steps, we can assure you can make the most out of a nice ice bath:

Shopping For An Ice Bath

Depending on your dedication to this method, you can use your bathroom bathtub or get yourself one of the fancy ice baths.

Know When It's Time To Jump

Usually, sports trainers and athletes recommend jumping in the tub right after you are done with strength training, physical activity, or even after an intense training session.

The theory beyond this is that you will be targeting your muscles right when they are healing. It soothes sore muscles, helps with muscle recovery, and initiates active recovery. If your health allows, you should try this with your future workouts. (12)

Set The Right Temperature

It is essential to set the bath temperature at an optimum range. You can consult your physician as well to set a suitable temperature. Usually, among elites, the optimum set temperature is 10 or 12 to 15 degrees Celsius. (13)

For being outside, this might not seem that much, but you will feel it once you take a dip. So you should be prepared.

Be Quick

An ice bath is unlike your regular shower; you can’t take time to indulge in the bathroom singing and relaxing. It is recommended to stay in an ice bath for ten to twenty minutes and no more. (14)

Follow all these steps, and we hope an ice bath is a pleasant and refreshing experience for you.

Is Ice Bath A Good Choice For Everyone?

Under the wrong circumstances, ice baths can be a bit dangerous for everyone, but for some people, it has a lot of adverse effects. If you suffer from the following, then you should keep your distance from ice baths (1):

  • Diabetes type 1 or 2.
  • Long-lasting cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure (15).
  • A strong condition makes it difficult for your body to regulate body temperature and pressure.

You can also get in touch with your physician and discuss wellness tips and the safety of cold water and ice baths. For more detailed and professional insights, you can ask them about the effects of a cold shower on core body temperature, central nervous system, constriction of blood vessels, muscle and tissue damage, parasympathetic nervous system, and other core benefits of ice baths. (16)

In A Nutshell

Peer-reviewed studies reveal that ice bath does hold some potential benefits, and the amount of research that questions its efficiency is somewhat limited.

However, you should not be encouraged to dip yourself in ice-cold water without proper research and before making sure it is right for you if you have any medical condition. For people with Diabetes 1 and 2, any cardiac vascular disease and blood pressure should avoid cold water and ice baths. (1)

For all workout enthusiasts, ice baths after intense exercise help with muscle recovery, increase blood flow and reduce fatigue and muscle soreness. Many professional athletes swear by this. Take an ice bath to notice improved function and better mental health.

If you plan on going ahead with cold water immersion or an ice bath, ensure the temperature is perfect and do not stay in the cold water for too long. This way, you can avail the benefits of ice baths and see if it positively affects you.

William Toro

William Toro ‧ CPT & Nutritionist

William is a certified personal trainer from NASM, he has also been a rehab physiologist for sports persons. He has more than 15 years of experience training people. And has featured in multiple publications like FoxNews, CNBC, Bustle, and other. 

You may also like

Read More
Read More
Read More
Read More
Read More