Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Are Ice Baths After Exercising A Good Idea?


Recently, I've run across information on enjoying an ice bath after exercising.  Although, I hate cold weather, or cold baths, I've read conflicting information on ice baths.  Ice baths are also known as cold water immersion where the athlete immerses themselves in an ice/water mixture.  The idea is that a person uses the ice bath to reduce muscle pain and soreness after a good workout.

The temperature of the ice bath should run between 50 and 59 degrees. One should only immerse themselves in the water for 10 to 20 minutes, no more.  This type of bath has been used for decades but there has been some recent research indicating that it may not be as good as believed.

It has been believed that the ice bath encouraged a faster recovery while reducing muscle and tissue damage, and improved function. Specifically, the theory went the ice bath constricts blood vessels, flushes wastes such as lactic acid, decreases a person's metabolism, and reduces swelling.  Unfortunately, current research does not fully support the idea. 

In fact, there are indications when using an ice bath after a good workout, can decrease inflammation, slows down muscle growth, and can delay muscle regeneration.  This is not good for those who are trying to increase muscle size and improve strength.  Furthermore, there are some potential side effects to using ice baths.  Due to the low temperature of the ice bath, it is possible to experience hypothermia, undergo nerve damage, or experience pain.  In addition, there can be some other issues if a person has cardiac issues, or diabetes.

The other problem with using ice baths is that the coldness can stiffen muscles if a person stays in the water too long.  That is why it is recommended that people enjoy a hot shower, or hot drink within an hour of getting out of the cold water. Rather than using an ice bath, athletes should use an active recovery or perform low intensity activity.  One could enjoy a massage, or a nice soak in tepid water around 75 degrees because it won't cause hypothermia.

In the last few years, researchers have been looking at as many studies as they can on the effectiveness of ice baths as part of recovery after an intense workout.  The reality is that none of the studies fully support claims made for the use of ice baths.  Many of the studies have too small a sample size while others focus on athletes within a certain age range.  

At the moment, it is suggested that if people want to use ice baths to see if they work for them, they should get the OK from their doctor.  Next, someone should be there monitoring them in case off emergency, and wear clothing.  Be sure to start with only a few minutes and work your way to 10 or 15 minutes.  Finally, if it doesn't seem to do much for you, try a different sort of cool down.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

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