5 Reasons Why An Ice Bath May Help To Enhance Your Workout Recovery

By Erin Curtain

Ready to commit to your wellbeing? Welcome to The Well, your go-to destination for all the inspiration you need to live the best version of yourself through evidence-based health tips from health professionals. In partnership with private health insurer, HBF, we’re helping you tap into a few things you could be doing right now to get the most out of 2023 and beyond.

Whether you're a bonafide athlete or a humble fitness enthusiast, you'd be familiar with the importance of recovery. If you're hitting the gym or training for a marathon, giving your body time to rest and repair is crucial for optimal performance. The recent trend floating around (pun intended) in recovery behaviours, is the ice bath. Many top athletes, from LeBron James to distance runner Mo Farah, incorporate an ice-cold plunge into their recovery routines to help reduce muscle soreness and improve performance. But is all the hype real? What exactly is an ice bath and how does it have the potential to aid recovery?

Here’s our breakdown of the potential benefits of ice baths and how to approach them if you're thinking of giving them a go.

The Benefits

May Reduce Inflammation

First and foremost, if used correctly, ice baths have the potential to help reduce inflammation and soreness in the muscles. When you work out, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibres. As your body works to repair these tears, inflammation can occur, which leads to soreness and stiffness. Cold water immersion, like that found in an ice bath, may help to reduce inflammation and speed up the recovery process if used correctly.

Potentially Prevent Future Injury

Ice baths may also help to reduce the risk of injury. By decreasing inflammation and improving circulation, ice baths may work towards reducing muscle fatigue and stiffness which can make you less prone to injury. 

Potentially Maximise Mental Fortitude

This benefit may be more anecdotal in nature, but many regular ice bathers assert that withstanding the cold builds character. Those who take the plunge regularly see it as a mental challenge, building resilience and training your brain to adapt and respond under trying physical circumstances. It's important to note that there are many factors involved in why individuals may feel a positive response on their mental wellbeing after participating in ice baths, including the connection to those who also participate and the social aspect of getting together to overcome a challenge. 

Getting Started

Ready to dive in? Before you take the plunge,  the first step is to check in with your body and your doctor. Ice baths can be a positive experience, but they aren’t for everyone—especially if you have an underlying condition such as high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.

Once you’ve cleared it with your doc, do your research on wellness venues in your local area that offer ice baths and can provide professional assistance in a supervised environment. 

Keep in mind that ice baths are no joke. If you stay in for longer than 15 minutes or temperatures plunge below the recommended minimum of 10 degrees Celcius, you could risk frostbite and hypothermia. The general rule of thumb is to take it slow, stay within the recommended ranges, and call it quits if anything starts changing colour. 

Want to commit to taking care of your body in 2023? Head over here for reasons visiting a physiotherapist might be a positive addition to your routine.

This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

This article is sponsored by HBF and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Urban List.

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