With A-listers such as Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron singing their praises, there’s been a lot of attention on ice baths and cold immersion therapy. While the idea of plunging into a pool of frosty water is straightforward, the science behind the practice is anything but.
To help you better understand ice baths, here’s a breakdown of what they involve, what benefits they can bring, and how you can try them for yourself at home.
What is an Ice Bath?
Though the name may suggest the need for actual ice, an “ice bath” consists of immersing yourself to the neck in any body of uncomfortably cold water – ideally between 5 and 15 degrees celsius.
How to Use an Ice Bath
Obviously an individual’s threshold for cold will vary dramatically based on their physiology and experiences. Don’t get discouraged if even the upper limit seems too tall an order at first. As with lifting weights, running, or any other physical activity, your body adapts to the challenge over time. Soon you’ll find yourself able to withstand longer durations and colder temperatures than you initially thought possible.
Whatever your tolerance, it’s important to not push yourself too far too quickly. There’s a real risk of cold shock when ice baths are used recklessly. Begin with brief stints in warmer water before gradually lowering the temperature and upping the time. A good goal is to build up to 10 minutes, though it’s not recommended to exceed 15.
As for frequency, best results are achieved when you take the plunge regularly, somewhere in the region of twice weekly to daily. One popular methodology states that you should submerge yourself for a minimum of 11 minutes per week split between multiple sessions. There are also courses you can take to guide you through ice bath techniques, such as that of ‘Iceman’’ Wim Hof.
Note that whether you decide to incorporate ice baths into your morning or evening ritual makes little difference on their effectiveness, though doing so at night may result in your sleep quality being affected due to the heating your body undergoes after cold exposure.
Why Use Ice Baths?
There must be a reason so many are willing to subject themselves to these wintry waters, right? Thankfully, there are several.
One of the most readily apparent benefits of ice baths is the resilience they build. Routinely conquering this small yet testing feat not only provides a mental boost that cascades into other tasks, but it may promote the grit needed to ‘keep your cool’ in the face of other stressors.
An increasing amount of scientific research supports the ‘feel good’ properties of cold exposure. One study found that dopamine concentrations were increased 250% when subjects were exposed to water temperatures of 14 degrees, and it’s believed that this hormone release is prolonged well after immersion. Epinephrine and noradrenaline were also observed to spike during cold therapy, leaving participants feeling energised, focused, and primed for other physical or mental tasks.
It isn’t only beneficial prior to activity, however. A 2022 meta analysis determined that when used as a recovery tool for high-intensity or endurance training, ice baths demonstrated positive impacts on muscle power, perceived recovery, and muscle soreness.
Where to Get an Ice Bath in Australia?
The benefits of ice baths are many, but incorporating them into your routine is often easier said than done. Filling your acrylic bathtub with bags of ice every day is far from optimal, and trying to simulate the experience with a cold shower leads to inconsistent results. Fortunately, there is a quality, Australian-made solution you can get your hands on if you’re interested in the practice.
iCoolsport offers a range of ice baths for varying needs. In fact, iCool invented modern ice baths and we are the largest global supplier. From the single-person IceOne bath to solutions big enough for the whole family, we cover all bases.
Our inflatable units are ideal when space is at a premium. Super lightweight and compact, these freestanding tubs are manufactured with the highest quality components and insulated thermal walls to keep colder for longer. Whether used indoors or outdoors, you can be assured of their durability.
Of course you’ll need a way to cool the water. Though our tubs do an excellent job of maintaining the chill of ice water, our iCool Compact Cool portable cooler produces the best results. It’s suitable for baths of up to 500L, and can maintain a constant water temperature of as little as five degrees. With easy to use one touch start and wifi remote controls, it makes taking regular ice baths a cinch, and allows you to increase your cold tolerance gradually and consistently.
For serious athletes, sporting cubs, colleges, hotels and gyms, we also stock a variety of all-in-one solutions. Groups can recover in iCool’s heated or chilled recovery pools, which accommodate up to 12 people at a time. They help set you apart from the competition, whether that comes in the form of fellow athletes, rival clubs, or other gyms.