Are Ice Baths Worth the Hype?
Ice baths are also known as cold water therapy, cold water immersion (CWI) or cryotherapy, and is practiced by dipping your body in very cold water (10-15 °Celsius) for a short amount of time. This is something quite commonly practiced with athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors jumping into an ice bath after physical activity. However, there is now a resurgence and more of us than ever are braving the chill of ice baths because of the health benefits.
What happens to your body during an ice bath?
When our bodies are exposed to extreme cold, we have a ‘fight of flight’ response that kicks into action. As a result, the stress hormone noradrenaline is released, which makes us more alert and boosts our concentration and immune response. Basically, your body is triggered to survival mode.
We have listed some potential health benefits of having an ice bath or cold water therapy below:
Speeds up your metabolism
When you’re immersed in the cold ice bath, your body must produce extra heat to stay warm, and as a result you are burning more calories quicker. The colder the water, the harder your body must work to burn fat stores into energy.
Improves your circulation
The shock of the cold water puts your circulatory system into overdrive. Your body stimulates increased blood supply to warm your core and vital organs. Your heart is forced to pump more efficiently, pushing blood through all your vessels, and supplying every part of your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
Increases your mental toughness
For those who are not a fan of the cold (like myself), getting in an ice bath takes a lot of mental practice. Doing this regularly helps stimulate your mental muscle and makes you mentally stronger. This will also reflect positively on other areas of your life as you have already practiced self-discipline and going out of your comfort zone.
Improves the Lymphatic and Immune Systems
The Lymphatic system is a network of vessels that run throughout the body, helping take away waste, bacteria, and microbes from your cells, essentially cleansing your body. By immersing yourself in cold water it causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste out of the area. This then triggers the immune system’s white blood cells to attach and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid.
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Nourishes skin and hair
Cold water exposure helps to reduce the size of skin pores and tightens skin. It helps the skin maintain its natural oils which are crucial for keep the skin moisturised. It also works on your hair, as hot water strips away your natural oils, cold water helps maintain your natural oils in your hair keeping it healthy and shiny.
Tips to take part in ice baths safely
- Talk to your local GP about any health concerns you have before braving the cold as exposure to cold water puts stress on the body and affects circulation, heart rate and pressure.
- Have a friend support you or do it with you. It’s always good to have someone watch out for you, but it is also a good way to have a laugh and enjoy yourself while you are doing it.
- Keep your immersions short with a few minutes of cold exposure per day is all you need to enjoy the health benefits.
- Help your body warm up post cold exposure but changing to warm clothes and do gentle exercise/movement.