Jumping into freezing water is a whole new level of excitement! Although the thought of jumping into cold water may make you feel chilly, lots of people embrace the ice baths for the sake of their well-being.
And the solid proof has been all over your social media, with athletes and influencers sharing their adventures in freezing water baths. Diving into freezing water is a cool way to ease muscle soreness, reduce inflammation, and relax after a workout.
But is it worth all the excitement (or freezing cold)? We will explore the advantages and dangers of cold water immersion, also known as cold plunges, ice baths, and similar activities.
How Do Ice Baths Work?
When you hop into an ice bath, the chilly water cools down your body and skin temperature. This temperature change makes your skin's blood vessels get smaller and moves blood to your core to keep you warm.
After taking an ice bath, your blood vessels get bigger and send the good stuff like oxygen and nutrients back to your muscles and other tissues in your body. This process might help decrease inflammation that can lead to discomfort and muscle soreness, such as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after working out.
When you are in the water, your body feels the pressure from all sides, which is known as hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure helps to transport blood flow to vital organs such as the heart, brain, and lungs, guaranteeing they receive an ample supply of oxygen and nutrients.
Real Benefits of Ice Baths
Anecdotal evidence suggests that ice baths and other forms of cold water therapy can help with a number of things, but there isn't a lot of solid study to back this up. A small but rising number of studies, most of which are smaller, show that cold exposure therapy, such as cold water therapy, may be good for your health.
For now, we need more research, especially controlled studies, to find out how well these cold immersion treatments work, what conditions and symptoms they treat, and the right doses to get these benefits.
Cold immersion treatments, such as ice baths, whole-body ice immersion, cold showers, cold plunges, and other similar methods, have been shown to help with the following.
1. Enhance Your Mood & Focus
Dopamine is commonly known as the hormone that makes you feel good. It's linked to happiness, motivation, being alert, and staying focused. Aside from being exposed to cold, dopamine can also be released through activities like exercising or binge-watching your favorite Netflix series.
Noradrenaline plays a crucial role in your body's response to danger, often referred to as the "fight-or-flight" response. It's all about paying attention, feeling happy or sad, remembering things, and staying awake and aware. Furthermore, minimal levels can lead to feelings of unease and sadness.
2. Relieves Pain
It is known that putting ice on an injury can shrink blood vessels, which helps reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. There are cold receptors on your skin that send electrical signals to your brain that make you feel less pain.
Ice baths also narrow blood vessels, just like putting ice on your skin. Because of this, they probably ease pain in the same way. When you get out of an ice bath, your tissues and muscles may feel less pain and inflammation because more blood is flowing to them.
3. Reduces Muscle Soreness
A look at 32 randomized controlled studies showed that putting your muscles in cold water for an hour after working out helped them feel better and recover faster for up to 24 hours. But heat treatment had the same effects.
According to another study, cold water therapy might help make muscles less sore after working out. But the studies looked at a range of cold water treatment techniques, temperatures, and times.
Different studies also show that putting your muscles in cold water after working out can make them smaller and weaker.
4. Supports Immunity
There is some proof that ice baths can help keep your immune system healthy. People were given germs in a small study to see how their immune systems would react.
People who did deep breathing, meditation, and soaking in cold water together had fewer signs of a bacterial infection than people who did not do these things together. But because the study looked at more than one way, it's hard to say for sure how good cold water immersion is for your immune system in general.
5. Improves Mental Health
A cool bath might also be good for your mind. One small study found that people with gout who took a daily 20-minute ice bath felt better about their lives. After 4 weeks, the people who took part in the study had less worry, anxiety, and depression and their joints moved around better.
Scientists believe that being in cold water makes your body react with stress and wakes up your nervous system. Over time, these changes may help you deal with worry better and feel better.