Too much of a good thing can be a really bad thing, so regardless of whether you are an ice bathing enthusiast or someone only just discovering the many enticing health benefits of cold therapy, it is vitally important that you know how long to ice bath.
The practice of cold water immersion for healing, rejuvenation and immunity boosting has been around for hundreds of to years. Today, taking ice baths is most often touted by professional athletes and sports physiotherapists, but more and more people are catching on and want to try the cold plunge for themselves. If you are one of these people, keep reading.
Effects of cold therapy
But what is so great about taking an ice baths, the practice also called cold water immersion?
While the health benefits are somewhat disputed since not enough high-quality research has been carried out on the effectiveness of ice bath treatment, they are both numerous and compelling. It is little wonder why sports injury rehabilitation specialists recommend ice baths for recovery or simply after a normal raining session.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of the most prominent effects you can expect to experience when taking an ice cold bath. Keep in mind that many of the benefits you can experience from coldwater therapy are accumulative – in other words, they are going to compound and increase over time if you make Goldwater therapy a consistent practice.
Eases muscle soreness
Taking an ice bath is particularly effective on the heels of intense or repetitive exercise.
Exposure to extremely cold temperatures is said to help prevent the micro-trauma inflicted on your muscle fibres during high-intensity exercise – and the resultant soreness caused by this. In other words, the shorter the gap between your training session and the ice bath the better for your recovery.
Combats the effects of high temperatures and humidity
Not only are ice baths useful following exercise, they can also be enjoyed prior to exercise.
Let us say, for example, that you are a runner about to run a marathon under extremely hot and humid weather conditions. One of the best ways you can prepare yourself and your body for what lies ahead is to immerse yourself in cold water beforehand.
By lowering your core body temperature, you will experience a residual cooling effect for a considerable amount of time after you leave the tub. This could turn out to be a significant advantage when you throw yourself into the hard workout that awaits.
Constricts blood vessels and slows blood flow and heart rate
Immersing yourself in an ice cold bath will make your blood vessels constrict, which slows the blood flow around your entire body.
This effect of taking ice baths is particularly good news if you suffer from high blood pressure and heart rate.
Fortifies your vagus nerve
Unless you are a physical therapist, you have probably never heard about the Vagus nerve.
The Vagus nerve is a connects everything in your parasympathetic nervous system, which governs all of your automatic bodily functions, including breathing, digesting and sweating.
When you plunge yourself into ice cold water, your Vagus nerve is being trained to face high-stress situations, which prepares you to face them better prepared.
Supports your entire nervous system
Ice baths can have a positive effect on your entire nervous system, which supports better quality sleep and alleviates fatigue.
If you take a personal ice bath daily, your immune system is fully awake and ready to regulate your body to the best of its ability.
How to prepare and take ice baths
Just as important as the question of how long to stay in an ice bath is the question of what the water temperature should be.
When it comes to taking cold plunges, you have two options. One is to go to a facility offering cold hydrotherapy. The pros of this option are that all of the guesswork and footwork are taken out of the equation, allowing you to simply show up, pay the feee, and enjoy the experience.
However, if you plan on taking cold plunges on a daily basis, are on a budget, or simply prefer taking cold plunges in the privacy and comfort of your own home, your best option is to go the DIY route.
DIY Ice bath recipe
Want to prepare your own ice baths at home? Here is how.
All you need to prepare your own ice bath is a bathtub or a similarly large, water-tight receptacle you can fill with water and ice.
You are also going to need plenty of ice cubes to add to your ice bath until it has the desired temperature. The recommended temperature range is between 10–15° Celsius, or 50–59° Fahrenheit.
You will need a thermometer to ensure you don’t make the water colder than it should be.
Set an alarm before you take the plunge – otherwise, you might lose track of time and end up staying in the ice cold tub longer than is wise.
Slowly does it
If you are new to cold water therapy, it is better to start with cold baths and slowly lower the temperature until you have bolt up your tolerance and get used to colder and colder water.
If you are not comfortable starting out at the recommended temperature for ice baths, be patient with yourself and keep in mind that lot of the people who swear by ice baths are endurance athletes – so unless you are an athlete yourself, you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to pro athletes when practicing cold water immersion for yourself.
What to do after you’ve taken a cold plunge
Gradual warming is important after immersion in cool water – particularly if you have been in the bath for a prolonged period of time.
It is a good idea to take a warm shower immediately after you have stepped out of your ice bath. This lets your body recover from the shock of the cold while ensuring you are warmed back up to a normal body temperature.
Your initial warming options are not restricted to taking shower with warm water. You can also choose to sip your favourite hot beverage as your slowly warm your body back up again.
The best thing about going for the hot beverage option is that it warms you up from the inside out – it feels like a delicious treat after subjecting your body to the extreme cold of an icy bath.
Are ice baths good for you?
The short answer is yes.
Some of the positive health benefits of ice baths include speeding up the healing process of sore or overworked muscles, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, stimulating your central nervous system and rebooting your immune system.
There is a ‘but’
If you have an underlying health condition that might put you at risk of experiencing adverse consequences from yourself to ice cold water temperature, icy plunges could be risky.
If you suffer from diabetes A or B, or heart problems, cold water immersion might not be the best idea for your health. Consult your physician if you are unsure of whether a condition you have might put you at risk from extreme cold.
How long is a healthy ice bath?
How long you should stay in an ice bath depends on your
Everyone has a different cold threshold, just as everyone has got a personal pain threshold. When you take a cold plunge, you inevitably push yourself beyond your personal comfort zone, and this is a good thing. However, you should’t go too far – if your core temperature gets too low, this can be really risky.
If you are new to ice bath submersion, you shouldn’t force yourself to stay in the cold water for very long at all. Everyone tolerates cold at a varying degree, so don’t berate yourself if your tolerance is very low to begin with.
It is better to start by immersing yourself for just a few minutes at a time. You might even want to start very gently, by simply taking very cold showers, or applying ice cubes only to a concentrated area. A good idea here could be to only immerse your feet to begin with. This gets you used to experiencing the shock of sudden and extreme cold.
Aim for this
As you get more comfortable and more bold, you can immerse more of your body for longer. However, you should never exceed 15 minutes. Even pro athletes don’t tend to sit in ice baths for more than 10-15 minutes at at time. It is always a good idea to set your alarm when you take a cold plunge to make sure the time doesn’t get away from you and you end up immersed for much longer than you had intended.
How long should you take an ice bath for sore muscles?
The amount of time you should stay in the icy tub if you are using cold water therapy specifically to target sore muscles is no different to the amount of time you should stay in otherwise.
Ice baths work, whether you are looking to prepare your body to perform under hot temperatures, ease sore or injured muscles, or boost your entire immune system. The fact that you can do it at home only makes cold water therapy more attractive.
Just don’t forget to get out of the cold after 10-15 minutes.