The idea of plunging yourself into ice cold water isn't a nice idea for anyone. If you've experienced it before, whether it was an accident or not, you'll know that the shock can overwhelm your body. We're not talking about going for a dip in your local river here (but read about the proven benefits for wild swimming if you're interested!) - this is even colder.
Research suggests that those who take ice baths regularly can benefit in a multitude of different ways, with many claiming that it has changed their life for the better. Yes, we've all heard that it makes you feel great, and we've even had our Active Editor, Matt Kollat, try one after a workout! As a result, we've put together the top 5 benefits you can get from taking an ice bath so you have everything you need before you take the plunge (quite literally!)
1. It increases your energy levels
By exposing your body to cold temperatures for short periods of time, you can cause a change in your hormone secretion. For example, studies have shown that your level of norepinephrine increases during cold water exposure - the hormone responsible for regulating attention, focus and energy. The cold water is also known to send electrical impulses to your brain, causing an increase in alertness and clarity.
2. It improves your circulation
The sudden change in temperature when entering an ice bath tells our heart that it needs to pump more blood to our organs. This then improves our circulation, giving skin a healthy glow and making you look more alive! Doing this on a regular basis can help promote healthy blood circulation, especially longer term.
3. You'll have a better night's sleep
You may think the opposite but taking regular ice baths can also lead to better sleep. The effect of cold water stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system which helps our body rest and repair. This then shifts your body from a state of stress into a more relaxed state, promoting a feeling of calm and leading you into a restful night's sleep.
4. It can help combat anxiety and depression
When you take an ice bath, the rush of adrenaline causes you to focus on your breathing over anything else, making it a great form of exercise for mindfulness. The release of norepinephrine also helps produce a feeling of calm, therefore supporting the mitigation of mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
5. It eases sore muscles
As Matt found out in his ice bath experience, ice baths feel great after a workout. The cold water reduces swelling and tissue breakdown, shifting lactic acid away from your muscles. This then relieves some of that swelling and soreness you feel in your muscles after a long run or a hard workout.
How long should you spend in an ice bath?
It’s best to keep it quick, starting with a few minutes. You can then build upon those minutes each time you take one. It's also believed that after a few minutes, an ice bath doesn’t do much for you anyway, so not overdoing it is the best way to go.
Whatever you do, don't exceed 10-15 minutes as that's when the prolonged freezing temperature can become dangerous.
Ever wondered about the benefits of a hot bath? Read how a hot bath can improve physical fitness as efficiently as exercise!