What Are the Benefits of an Ice Bath?

Nick Mann

Taking an ice bath is a type of alternative medicine that many athletes and long distance runners implement as part of their post-workout routine. Also known as cryotherapy, an ice bath has been known to have several health benefits when executed correctly. These include speeding up muscle recovery time, reducing muscle soreness, preventing injury and relieving anxiety.

Ice cubes for an ice bath.
Ice cubes for an ice bath.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that athletes participate in an ice bath is to speed up muscle recovery time. The theory is that the cold temperature causes blood vessels to contract, which removes the majority of lactic acid from the muscles. In turn, circulation increases, which helps the body recover considerably quicker than it would on its own. The benefit of taking an ice bath as opposed to using an ice pack on individual muscles is that it helps the entire body. As a result, other parts of the body, such as the bones and nerves, should recover more quickly as well.

In addition to a quicker recovery time, an ice bath will also reduce muscle soreness. For example, if an athlete participates in an intense weight lifting session, his muscles are likely to experience significant stress. Under normal circumstances, his muscles would be sore the next day and possibly even later. When cryotherapy is implemented, it should considerably reduce his level of soreness. Consequently, this technique should make it possible for him to resume weight training and other exercises quicker, which should give him an advantage over the competition.

Another important benefit is that some injuries can be prevented. Since the muscles and other body parts recover faster and inflammation is minimized, the odds of a bodily injury occurring are also reduced. This is mainly due to the fact that cold temperatures stop muscle tissues from breaking down. On top of this, the icy conditions will also aid the cells in quickly repairing any muscle tears that did occur. Consequently, an athlete can potentially bypass or at least minimize an injury that would have normally happened without the implementation of an ice bath.

An additional benefit is one that people besides athletes can experience, and that is anxiety relief. This treatment for anxiety and panic attacks originated in China, and is thought be an effective alternative to more mainstream anti-anxiety drugs. An ice bath is thought to significantly calm a person down and alleviate any panic he is experiencing. Along with this, many people have claimed to experience levels of deep, peaceful sleep afterward.

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