Benefits of Ice Baths and Cold Water Therapy
Cold Water Therapy and ice baths have been by professional athletes for many years. The latest science has identified many benefits of Cold Water Therapy, both physical and mental, from faster recovery to improved energy and mood. We have gathered all the latest research on ice baths, cold baths and cold water therapy.
1. Improves recovery and performance
A past study showed that cold water therapy can help prevent and treat onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after exercise. Another study showed that Cold Water Therapy reduced muscle damage and soreness and increase oxygen flow to the muscle. This allows for a quicker recovery time.
This study suggested that after high intensity or endurance training, cold water immersion improved muscle power and recovery while decreasing muscle soreness.
Exposure to cold water causes an increase in adrenalin and noradrenaline which causes a boost in energy and focus.
2. Improves mood
A 2000 study showed that submerging your body in cold water like an ice bath increases dopamine by around 250%. Dopamine helps regulate mood and is often referred to as the feel good hormone. Dopamine can also help with mental clarity, motivation, focus and creativity.
3. Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
In a study where participants took a 20 min cold water bath four days a week, they reported feeling less stress, anxiety and depression. The same study also suggested an improved quality of life in people for gout. Please note although cold water therapy may help with depression and anxiety, it cannot replace conventional care.
In another study, experts found that daily cold showers decreased depressive symptoms in the participants.
4. Boosts your immune system
The latest research shows that using ice baths and cold baths may help boost your immune system. In one study, participants practised meditation, deep breathing and cold water therapy. They were then exposed to bacterial infection. As a result of using the practices above their bodies produced more anti-inflammatory chemicals and fewer pro-inflammatory cytokines and therefore showed less symptoms of the infection.
Research shows that Cold Water Therapy activates the lymphatic system to help flush out waste and toxins from the body.
A past study showed that doing cold water therapy daily over weeks or months could increase anti-tumour immunity so immune responses can lead to tumour control.
5. Reduces inflammation and chronic pain
Inflammation can cause pain in the body. A study showed that contrast water therapy has been used for treating pain for things like rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and sprains. Contrast water therapy involves alternating between cold and hot water.
Another study showed that cold water therapy may help with pain by blocking nerve cells that signal pain.
6. Increases metabolic rate and may aid fat loss
Some research has shown that doing ice baths and cold water therapy can increase your metabolic rate. In a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it was shown that 5 mins immersion in cold water of 15 Celsius or less increased metabolism resulting in more calories being burned.
Another study showed that cold water therapy in water of 14 Celsius or less increased the metabolism by 350%.
Cold water exposure has also been shown to convert white fat which is stored in the body to brown fat which is more readily available to broken down and used by the body.
An increase in metabolic rate along with an increase in circulation may help to increase energy levels.
A 2023 study found that doing an ice bath for 2 mins at around 3 celsius and 5 cold showers (30 secs at 10 celsius) per week led to a significant reduction in abdominal fat and waist size. It also showed improvements in stress, mood and hormone output
- Andrew Huberman, Ph.D.
7. Builds Discipline and Resilience
By forcing yourself to do ice baths, you are building discipline which can benefit other parts of your life. Cold exposure improves mental toughness so you are better able to handle life stressors. You will notice over time that the more ice baths you do, the easier it becomes.
If you are looking to build muscle or strength, Dr Huberman an American neuroscientist and professor recommends doing your ice bath before resistance training. If this is not possible he suggests waiting around 6-8 hours after training to have your ice bath.