Pro athletes are not the only ones soaking in ice baths for their health. Even Lady Gaga, as part of her pre- and post-show routine, soaks for 10 to 20 minutes in an ice bath claiming it helps manage fibromyalgia, chronic pain, fatigue and poor sleep.
An ice bath, or cold-water immersion (CWI) therapy, is a sports therapy in which people immerse themselves in ice water. Athletes generally soak up to 15 minutes after a competition or intense training to speed recovery.
Here are a few of the benefits of CWI:
If you ever get overheated when exercising, an ice bath can help cool your body quickly. Contact with cold water helped overheated people cool off twice as fast as alternative methods, one study found.
One small 2020 study found a benefit in terms of muscle recovery when athletes used ice baths over a period of 16 days. Long-term effects were stronger than short-term, so you may be in this for the long haul.
A 2017 study also found that cold reduces blood flow in the muscles to limit inflammation, swelling and damage to the muscle fibers, leading to more active recovery.
An ice bath could be beneficial hours later. A study investigated athletes who took cold-water immersion after competitions and found it enhanced their sleep.
CWI has been shown to help with decreased tension, fatigue and negative mood states while also offering pain relief from rheumatism, fibromyalgia and asthma, as well as improving the general well-being of participants.
Additional benefits include increased dopamine, lowered cortisol levels, lowered heart rate and reduced water weight.
If all this sounds like something you’d like to try, check with your doctor just in case. And don’t shock your body too much at first, ease in slowly and don’t stay in long.
Or better yet, start off with hot-to-cold showers to work your way into it.