We may have heard a lot of people talking about ice bath or cold water immersion (CWI) but most of us have never practiced it. In fact, professional athletes have started using cryotherapy under professional supervision. Cryotherapy may not be easily available and being expensive is never an option for people who are not professionally involved in physical activity. However, people can use CWI at home using several techniques and benefit from it. Although the benefits are still being debated in the medical fraternity, those athletes who have used it do vouch for it.
What research says about Ice Bath
Medical researchers have mixed opinions about the results of the ice baths and believe that most of the benefits are flawed. They believe that an ice bath may not be helpful in most of the things as claimed. While the study might be suggesting against it, a 10-minute CWI is considered to be a good practice among athletes and few experts who believe in using an ice bath. Also noticeably the researchers did say that there are not as many benefits but they believed that there are few benefits that cannot be overlooked.
Benefits of an Ice Bath
1. Relief to sore and aching muscles. It may also stop DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness).
2. Help CNS (Central Nervous System) by feeling less fatigued and sleep well.
3. Reduce inflammatory response to trauma
4. Decrease the effect of hot weather, humidity, and internal heat produced due to activity.
5. Trains parasympathetic nervous system to help face stress and painful situations well.
6. Help recover faster for the next workout.
7. it is advised to take Ice bath within 1 hour of the activity to benefit from CWI. As the gap increases between ice bath and activity, the benefits fade away.
Dangers of Ice Bath
1. A prolonged immersion may lead to hypothermia. One must limit CWI to a maximum of 10 minutes.
2. Skin redness and rash feeling. Although this is superficial and goes away in some time.
3. Ice bath is not recommended for those having pre-existing cardiovascular diseases or hypertension.
4. People having type 1 or type 2 diabetes must avoid CWI as the fall in core temperature may be dangerous for them.
How to prepare for an Ice Bath at home
One can easily do an ice bath at home. There are certain points one needs to strictly apply to in order to safely take the Ice Bath and get the maximum benefit out of it.
1. Ensure that the temperature of the ice bath is 10-15 deg C. Higher temperature will not give any benefit whereas lower temperature can be dangerous. The best way to do this is by adding ice slowly and monitoring the temperature with a thermometer. Get it to 10 deg C and then allow it to rise during a 10-minute bath.
2. Use an alarm clock to ensure you do not spend more time than 10 minutes at a time. In case you want to spend a longer time, try 10:10:10. Do a CWI for 10 minutes, they stay at normal temperature for 10 minutes followed by another 10 minutes CWI.
3. Start slowly and with partial immersion. One can start initially with feet and lower legs and then graduate to the upper body and finally up to the neck.
4. At home you can use a tub, However, if you do not have a tub, you can use a 200-liter plastic barrel easily available in the market. Some athletes like to use the barrel than the tub as using a tub sometimes fails to immerse the complete body into an Ice Bath. Also, it is easy to maintain the temperature in a barrel having a smaller surface area with air.
Try it for sure
Ice Bath or CWI is an excellent way to recover from training or a run. Researchers may have not accepted all the benefits but they have not rejected them 100%. Each individual stands to benefit in a different way. All one needs to do is ensure the right temperature, limited time, and correct application. It is also recommended to have a friend or a family member around when you do it so that in case of any adverse feeling, one can ask for assistance.