Preparing and enjoying an ice bath tub is something that is accessible on any budget and for experience level.
Often when you hear about cryotherapy and the extensive health benefits of ice bathing, it comes from professional athletes or celebrities such as Lady Gaga or Tim Ferriss. It is easy to get the impression that ice bathing is only for the rich and famous – but there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the many benefits of ice bathing, too.
Whether you are able to invest in advanced equipment or want to go the DIY-route, there are plenty of options available to you if you want to tap into the healing powers of cold water therapy.
From ice cool showers to the full-body plunge in an ice bath tub, ice bathing can take a number of different forms that all vary in intensity and commitment level. In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of ice bathing and the specific pros and cons of each option, with a particular focus on the ice bath tub.
What to expect from cold therapy
Cryotherapy unlocks an impressive array of health benefits that any health-conscious person should want to tap into.
Ice baths have been used for many decades and in many different cultures, as a way of strengthening the immunity response and conditioning both body and mind. In more recent decades, ice baths have also been used to alleviate muscle and joint soreness, as well as to prepare athlete to perform at their highest capacity under hot weather conditions.
Ice baths speed up athletic recovery
Frosty temperatures are known to help with delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle recovery.
The reason for this is that your blood vessels constrict when you expose your entire body to ice water. This reduces swelling and inflammation – two factors that together help vastly reduce the time it takes your body to recover faster in the wake of athletic performance.
Alleviate muscle and joint pain
Of course, you don’t need to be an athlete to enjoy the healing effects of cold water on the body.
Extreme temperatures alleviate muscle and joint pain in anyone, and if you suffer from joint and muscle soreness, perhaps as part of a chronic physical condition you have, taking ice baths can help alleviate some of the stress your condition places on your body.
Immersing yourself in a large tub filled with cold water for just a few minutes on a regular basis can help reduce inflammation of joints and muscles overall.
Activates your immune system
Taking ice baths stimulates your immune system, by activating your vagus nerve, which is the central nerve governing the central nervous system.
Cold showers and cold water immersion increase the body’s production of white blood cells. It is the white blood cells that are responsible for the body’s recovery and ability to fight diseases.
Different kinds of ice baths
While not everyone is able to access a dedicated cryotherapy chamber at a spa facility on a regular basis, everyone can benefit tremendously from taking a cold plunge on a regular basis. Now, let us take a look at the different options, and weigh up the pros and cons of each option.
Keep in mind that ice therapy exposes your body to an extreme of temperature that it isn’t used to or comfortable with. Start by building up your cold tolerance.
To ensure proper health, the water should of your ice bath should be around 10-15 degrees Celsius (around 50-60 Fahrenheit), and you should never stay in for more than 2o minutes at a time.
Icy cold showers are the ideal cold therapy training tool – not to mention, the most approachable and straight-forward form of cold water therapy most people have access to.
If you want to start exploring and experimenting with icy water regularly, cold showers should be the first step you take. If your cold tolerance is low, there is nothing wrong with a bit of contrast therapy, where you switch between pleasantly hot and freezing cool water in the shower.
Icy foot bath
An ice water foot bath is another great way of getting your body used to freezing temperatures. Ice water foot baths can also be one of the best ice baths for relaxation.
What’s more, ice water foot baths are almost as easy to prepare as regular foot baths. Simply take your tub or bucket and fill it with cold water, but only approximately two thirds of the way. Then add ice to lower the temperature.
At the other end of the spectrum from frosty showers and foot baths we’ve got the cryotherapy chamber.
While the cryotherapy chamber is set up to give you the best ice bath experience possible – as well as the maximum benefits – visiting one on a consistent basis might not be within your means.
You most likely won’t be able to replicate one of these at home, either. Visiting a cryotherapy chamber is definltely a worthwhile experience, but if you are planning to make ice bathing part of your regular health regimen, you might be better off acquiring or setting up a dedicated, easily accessible ice tub at home.
Now we are getting to the meat of this article – ice tubs.
There are many different levels and varieties of ice bathing tubs – from the professional, high-tech cold plunge to the ice bath you prepare and enjoy in your own bathtub at home.
If you choose to go the DIY route, here is an article that walks you through the process.
Whether you decide to set up a permanent ice tub in your back yard or occasionally transform your existing bathtub into a cold plunge, these are the things you need consider.
- What kind of tub are you going to use? Is your own bathtub sufficient, or are you going to convert an industrial freezer, or invest in a purpose-built plunge that comes with all of the functional features you are going to need?
- If you are going the DIY route, how are you going to get the ice (Do you have access to an ice machine or a freezer big enough to produce the many ice cubes it takes, or will you have to purchase large quantities of ice and have it delivered), and how are you going to keep track of time and temperature (Your ice bath shouldn’t be too cold or take too long).
Cold tub setup
If you are going to set up your own ice bath tub at home, here is a brief rundown of what you will need, and how to set it all up.
The primary thing you are going to need for your ice bath tub setup is, of course, at tub.
If you have a bathtub, that is your best bet. If you don’t, a portable tub in a lightweight design will do just fine. Ideally, your tub should be large enough to allow you to sit in it in an upright position while the water covers your legs and waist.
When preparing your ice bath, fill it with cool water two thirds of the way up. Leave plenty of space for the ice.
Pour ice into the water a bit at a time. Don’t just dump it all in at once – doing that can lower the temperature too drastically. Go slow and stay in control.
A means of measuring time and temperature
If you are using a dedicated cold plunge for your ice baths, such as a Renu Therapy tank, you won’t need to worry about this, but when using a regular tub, it is of vital importance that you keep an eye on the timing and temperatures while ice bathing.
Ice bath temperatures should be 10–15° Celsius or 50–59° Fahrenheit. You should also never stay in the water for more than 20 minutes at a stretch.
After the ice bath
When you immerse yourself in an ice bath, you are essentially putting your body into survival mode.
Taking a hot bath right on the heels for your ice bath is a good idea, not only because it feels like a reward for challenging yourself, but because it warms your body back up again.
Setting up your own ice tub can be done very easily – and the results, particularly when compounded over a longer period of time, as all good habits must be, are incredible.