5 Reasons to Experience an Ice Bath + Research to Read

Photo by EB Combs, IG @thedeepwell

Photo by EB Combs, IG @thedeepwell

Alongside matcha lattes, HIIT training, and smoothie bowls, ice baths have become a trendy and often talked about addition to a well-rounded lifestyle. But you may be wondering what is the actual purpose of these frigid dips. I know some of you enjoy research and some of you don't so I have worked to please both camps. Read my five reasons below and keep scrolling for a couple research articles backing up this perspective. 

  1. You will be challenged. 

    • This is my number one reason to do ice baths and it is why I continue to coach others through an ice bath. I believe that we conquer our fears, pains, and stressors by experiencing them and living through them NOT by avoiding them.

  2. You will be forced to practice breath work in a very tough environment. 

    • Every time I get into the ice I lose my breath. I wish I was one of those cool, calm, and collected individuals who can just slide into the ice and not panic but alas I am not. It takes me a few seconds (okay 30-45) to calm down, but when I finally do catch my breath the real battle begins and I get to enjoy all of the lovely self talk that comes my way. One time I even had an ab muscle tweak out on me #notcool.

  3. You will feel very relaxed and rejuvenated afterwards.

    • In all of my research I haven’t seen much about how the individuals who experienced the ice baths felt, but whenever I do an ice bath or when I coach someone through the ice, they always feel better than before they did it. The data isn't clear on this because feelings are subjective, however I believe that it is a clear indicator of the benefits of it.

  4. You can post a photo to your feed that shows you being a badass. 

    • This is obviously enough of a reason in itself. Who doesn’t want to look cool in a photo on social media??? haha kidding. Kind of.

  5. You will be without your phone/technology for at least 3 minutes. 

    • I wrote this reason in jest but honestly when do we actually get intentional time away from technology to simply be with ourselves and our pain, um I mean, feelings.... We are continually numbing ourselves with the use of our lovely devices but the ice bath prevents you from checking out. In the ice bath you will just be numb from the ice and that’s probably better, right?

Okay maybe you are reading this and you are pissed because you wanted actual data to convince you to do an ice bath. But the truth is, it can be challenging to give you concrete data points touting the benefits of cold water immersion. People are singing the praises of cold water immersion all over the internet, but I wanted to give you a chance to learn for yourself by linking the studies below. 

 YES some articles say that we can see a difference in inflammation and others talk about the benefits for depressive symptoms (see below). But truth be told, most studies end in something like this: "more research needs to be completed in this area to get conclusive results”.  So don’t think you should jump in an ice bath because it will completely heal and change your body and life. Get into a ice bath because the mental benefits of doing something challenging are certainly plentiful and the overwhelming feedback of those who do the ice bath recommend it (most of the time). This isn't to say we should always dive straight into whatever everyone else is telling us to do because they say so, rather the overwhelming feedback of those who have a regular practice with cold water therapy highly recommend it! 

Data from research studies can be a powerful conduit for change and growth, but we should not base all of our training and lifestyle choices from scientific research studies alone. Just because all of the data isn’t there for CWI doesn’t mean you should avoid it like the plague. See what it feels like to be on the cusp of new health research and data and give it a shot for yourself. It might just change your life. 

And for all you data junkies, here is some research to look over that talks about the physiological effects of cold water immersion/Cryotherapy. 

***It should be noted that cold water immersion and cryotherapy are often used interchangeably in research. IF you look at the research design and methods you will be able to see whether they used cold water immersion or cryotherapy. This isn't a post about cryotherapy versus cold water immersion so I won't go into much detail regarding the difference between the two. I will say that I personally prefer cold water immersion to cryotherapy done with a machine. 

The Effect of Cold Water Immersion on Recovery and Exercise

  • This is an interesting study that showed positive results from cold water immersion.

Cryotherapy, are we freezing the benefits of exercise? 

  • Quote from the study itself, emphasis added.

    • "An extensive body of research exists on the physiological effects of cold water immersion. Changes in tissue temperature, limb and skin blood flow and muscle soreness are well documented and supported, whereas some of the secondary effects of cold water immersion remain more speculative. Current evidence indicates that cold water immersion is not universally beneficial for recovery and adaptation to exercise.... Further research is warranted to understand the physiological effects of cold water immersion in greater detail, and to establish stronger evidence-based prescription guidelines in terms of the optimal temperature, duration, timing and frequency of cold water immersion to promote recovery and adaptation to exercise.”

Can short-term exposure to extremely low temperatures be used as an adjuvant therapy in the treatment of affective and anxiety disorders?

  • The results from this study are encouraging but unfortunately it was done over 10 years ago and in this field of research I would not be able to reference this study on an official paper. Also it was done utilizing a cryo machine which is honestly very different from cold water immersion. However, I am hoping to dig up more research on the effects of CWI/CRYO on mood disorders (specifically anxiety and depression).

Adapted Cold Shower as a Treatment for Depression

  • Again, this study was done over 10 years ago, but it is cool to see how even taking a cold shower can be beneficial for your mental health!

Photo by EB Combs, IG @thedeepwell

Photo by EB Combs, IG @thedeepwell

So if you are ready to take the icy plunge join me on the 28th to experience CWI for yourself! Sign up here! 

  • At the Ice and Heat session we will talk all about utilizing both the ice and heat for recovery. You will do 2-3 rounds in the ice and heat and I promise you will learn something new and be put outside of your comfort zone.

If you still need a little convincing, or some baby steps for your journey into cold water therapy, here is a great article from XPT about taking cold showers. 

As always, reach out with any questions and let me know what you think of cold water immersion! Happy Thursday! 



Amy ShenkComment