Ice Bath Benefits: Research + Tips for Ice Bathing at Home

by Global Viewpoint
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Want to be at the top of your game? Take an ice bath. Though it’s uncomfortable, there are so many physical and mental health benefits of ice bathing that justify taking the plunge. Ready to rejuvenate your mind and body? Don’t miss out on these ice bath benefits that athletes, celebrities, and business leaders swear by.

In 2023, ice baths and cold tubs are on the rise. Do a quick search online and you’ll find that some of the most influential people on the planet are taking them. This includes Wim Hof, Oprah Winfrey, Joe Rogan, Lady Gaga, Jack Dorsey, Lebron James, Usher, Madonna, Zac Efron, and countless others. You may be wondering…what’s the deal with ice bathing and why is this wellness craze trending? This article on the scientific health benefits of ice baths will answer all of your questions!

Here’s everything you need to know about ice bath therapy and how it will benefit your health and wellbeing. An ice bath a day keeps the doctor away, so keep reading to discover why ice bathing is good for you!

Read also:

Top 10 Best Cold Tubs in 2023

Top Benefits of Cold Water Immersion

Wim Hof Ice Bath Tips and Technique

How Ice Baths Affect Athletic Recovery

Reviewing the Portable Edge Tub

Why ice bath is good for you
This article on the various health benefits of ice baths contains affiliate links, where I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Ice bathing at a glance

In the world of cold immersion and sports therapy, an ice bath is the gold standard. It involves dunking your body in a container of ice cold water for a short period of time (generally 2-5 minutes). Ice baths can be done on the entire body – benefiting core systems including the cardiovascular system, immune system, circulatory system, and more.

Nowadays, so many gyms, spas, and wellness centers offer polar plunges. And you can even take them from the comfort of your own home. Just fill up your bathtub with cold water and ice cubes and you’re good to go!

For decades, ice baths have been a popular recovery ritual for professional athletes. However, in recent years, it’s become mainstream for nearly everyone else. And now, modern scientific research is catching up – bringing to light the countless benefits of ice baths and other forms of cold water immersion.

Why take ice baths in nature? It's a very grounding experience
Why take ice baths in nature? It’s a very grounding experience

How cold is an ice bath?

There’s no standard for how cold an ice bath should be – every athletic trainer and cold immersion practitioner has a different approach to this. However, the general consensus is that ice baths between 2-5 minutes can be close to freezing (32°F / 0°C). Longer cold plunges (i.e. 5-10 minutes) are generally between 35°F and 60°F (2°C and 16°C). The length and temperature of your ice bath will depend on your level of health, fitness, and experience taking cold plunges.

Types of ice baths

There are so many types of ice baths out there, ranging from DIY at-home ice baths to cold tubs with advanced filtration and cooling systems. Here are the different types of ice baths that are most suitable for cold therapy.

Freestanding Ice baths

These are the most durable (and comfortable) ice baths out there. They range from chest freezers and stock tanks to dedicated cold plunges. My favorite freestanding tub is The Portal by Polar Monkeys, which can be used as a hot and cold tub. The built-in chiller system allows you to adjust the temperature between 36°F to 103°F (2°C to 39°C).

Ice baths are good for you when you're using the Polar Monkeys
Ice baths are good for you when you’re using the Polar Monkeys

Inflatable ice baths

These are portable, blow-up tubs that can be filled with cold water and ice. The best inflatable ice baths on the market use UV-resistant materials (including vinyl and latex) and come with air pumps. My go-to inflatable cold tub is the Edge Tub by Edge Theory Labs, which can easily fit into a backpack and still provides ample legroom for me (6 ft. 4 in. tall).

Save $150 on your next Edge Tub by using the coupon code JON150 at checkout!

The Edge Tub is a top choice for athletes
The Edge Tub is a top choice for athletes

Budget ice baths

These ice baths generally cost between $50-$100 and are easy to transport. They are typically on the smaller side, so you’ll have to crouch down and tuck in your legs to fit inside. The G Ganen Foldable Ice Bathtub is one of the most cost-effective products out there.

There are so many ice water bath benefits to discover
There are so many ice water bath benefits to discover

Luxury ice baths

If you have the money and really value your health, it’s worth splurging on one of the more high-end ice baths. Used by the famous digital commentator and podcaster Joe Rogan, The BlueCube Ice Bath is one of the most luxurious ice baths imaginable. It’s ideal for residential and commercial use, offering more power, space, and other specs than any other cold tub.

Save $500 off your order by using my coupon code “JON” at checkout.

Benefits to ice baths don't get much better than the BlueCube Ice Bath
Benefits to ice baths don’t get much better than the BlueCube Ice Bath

My favorite ice baths (by category):

Budget: $Ice Barrel
Mid: $$The Edge Tub
Luxury: $$$BlueCube Ice Bath
The ice barrel is one of my favorite ice bath products
The ice barrel is one of my favorite ice bath products, click here to learn more.

How do ice baths work?

Ice baths are a simple and feasible way to build resilience. By deliberately exposing our bodies to the stress of the cold, we can regulate our nervous system and learn how to better manage stress.

The human body’s response to ice cold water is similar to how we respond to other stressors in life. This includes having an elevated heart rate, feelings of panic, body contractions, and shallow breathing. By willingly subjecting ourselves to distress from ice bathing, we are priming the mind and body to better cope with stress.

In addition, ice baths are an effective way to reduce inflammation in the body. This makes ice bathing a great tool for those trying to overcome chronic health conditions.

The best ice baths are cold plunges in nature.
The best ice baths are cold plunges in nature.

There are many ways to gain benefits from ice bath therapy. But just like any other type of therapy, the answer is in the dose. If you’ve never taken an ice bath before, it makes sense to start low and slow. Being gentle is key; don’t rush into it.

Whether you’re looking to boost your mental and physical health or help treat a health condition, keep reading. Here are the top benefits of ice baths based on scientific research in 2023.

20 benefits of ice baths: Why are ice baths good for you

Looking to better understand the world of ice cold baths? Here are the top 20 benefits of ice bathing that affect the mind, body, and soul. Note that many of the scientific studies below touch on all aspects of cold immersion, including ice baths and cold showers. No matter the type of cold water therapy, they will affect the body in the same way.

Enhances blood circulation

This is one of the top cold tub benefits by far.

Blood circulation is a strong indicator of a person’s health. It affects the heart, immune system, cardiovascular system, mental health, and energy levels in the body.

When you’re healthy, the body is efficiently transporting oxygen through the blood to all the different cells and tissues. When blood isn’t flowing properly, problems tend to arise – ranging from low energy levels to a host of different diseases.

Like other forms of cold immersion, ice baths help improve cardiovascular health. According to this PubMed study, cold immersion causes “peripheral vasoconstriction that results in central pooling of blood, followed by peripheral vasodilation after emerging from the cold water.” This occurs as follows:

When taking a cold plunge, blood is transported from the extremities to protect the vital organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidney, etc.). After the cold exposure, the body self-regulates, causing blood to recirculate to the extremities. This leads to increased blood flow throughout the body – thus oxygenating the cells, organs, tissues, and muscles. During this process, some new blood vessels are formed altogether – offering a much-needed biological upgrade for those with poor circulation.

Due to these significant mental and physical effects, this is one of the best cold tub benefits.

Is a cold bath good for you? 100%
Is a cold bath good for you? Absolutely!

Lowers inflammation

This round-up of the benefits of cold water baths wouldn’t be complete without mentioning its impact on inflammation. So, forget the Tylenol and Advil and instead give this natural remedy a try.

Similar to how putting an ice pack on a torn muscle reduces swelling, submerging yourself in ice cold water has a similar anti-inflammatory effect on the body. As such, it’s no surprise that cold tubs are popular among athletes who use them after intense workouts.

Researchers in Hong Kong performed a study to determine the impact of cold-water exposure on muscle oxygenation. It evidenced that cold water exposure after exercise causes blood vessels to constrict – supplying less blood to the affected area and decreasing inflammation for up to one day after the workout. In another study examining the outcomes of cold water immersion in a four-day soccer tournament, reduced aches and muscle pains were noted in the athletes.

In addition to ice baths being beneficial for athletes, it’s also a helpful treatment for those with inflammatory diseases. Per the same study, it was shown that cold water immersion can ease pain associated with fibromyalgia and rheumatism. Therefore, cold water therapy (including ice baths) helps treat inflammation and pain without the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers.

An ice bath pool at a local gym
An ice bath pool at a local gym

Leads to weight loss

There are two ways to achieve weight loss: eating less and exercising more. Ice baths are absolutely a form of exercise, as you’ll see below.

According to a study performed by the National Institute of Health, cold immersion activates brown fat in the body. This causes two hormones, Irisin and FGF to be released, burning fat tissues and leading to weight loss.

Another way cold exposure leads to weight loss is through shivering, which generates heat and burns calories. Per this research study, cold-induced shivering resulted in energy expenditure that may protect the body against obesity and related conditions.

In addition, a research study performed by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that cold water immersions (up to 5 minutes) increased the rate of metabolism. Metabolism is the process where the body converts food into energy, so a higher metabolic rate means more energy burned and more weight lost. Moreover, this scientific study by the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that cold immersion at 57°F (14°C) increased metabolism by 350%.

Here is another practical example evidencing that cold water therapy leads to weight loss. The following study was performed on Korean women divers, who dive into cold waters around Jeju Island to hunt fish. When researchers studied them, they found that these women have significantly higher basal metabolic rates than other local women. Interestingly, their metabolic rates were higher during the winter than in the summer.

When you’re in ice cold water, the heart has to pump faster to maintain a stable body temperature. This means that more calories are burned while swimming in cold water versus warm water, thus contributing to weight loss.

Cold plunges are becoming more common at wellness spas around the world
Cold plunges are becoming more common at wellness spas around the world

Reduces aches and pains

In the same way ice baths reduce inflammation, they also help alleviate aches and pains in the muscles. Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, which leads to less swelling and therefore, less pain.

In a recent PubMed study, researchers found that exposure to cold water (10°C) increased muscle recovery in volleyball players who practiced cold immersion over a 16-day period. Athletes who immersed their bodies in ice cold water reported less muscle soreness after exercising than those who did not.

Given that faster muscle recovery increases athletic performance, this ice bath benefit is crucial for athletes. For more on that, read next: Ice Bath Recovery Tips.

Decreases stress

For those experiencing chronic stress, this among the best ice bath benefits.

Nowadays, high stress levels are all too common around the world. Thankfully, ice baths are a great tool to help manage stress.

Exposure to ice cold water stimulates the Vagus nerve, which reduces the heart rate and stress hormones in the body. In addition, ice baths increase the production of mood-enhancing hormones and neurotransmitters, including beta endorphins and dopamine. This boosts the Central Nervous System’s capacity and functionality (CNS). A well-functioning CNS can help a person sleep better and avoid sleep disorders like insomnia.

In addition to cold plunges, grounding and earthing is another powerful way to lessen the body’s stress response.

The Edge Tub by Edge Theory Labs is among the best ice baths.
The Edge Tub by Edge Theory Labs is among the best ice baths.

Want to take ice baths in your own home? The Edge Tub is what you’re looking for. It fits into a backpack, so you can take this portable, iceless cold tub with you anywhere you go. It also has a hot tub mode with temperatures over 105°F (41°C). Apply Jon150 at checkout for $150 off!

Learn more about the Edge Tub

Strengthens the immune system

Knowing what we know about cold therapy now, this benefit of ice baths isn’t surprising. Cold immersion improves the immune system and can improve our ability to deal with common illnesses and infections.

A study in the Netherlands found a 29% lower rate of calling in sick for work or school among those who incorporate cold showers into their routine. Cold immersion can also lead to an improved anti-inflammatory response from the body, helping our body deal with infections. A stronger anti-inflammatory response helps reduce our body’s inflammation.

According to another study from the Netherlands, cold exposure, breathwork techniques, and meditation allowed research subjects to stimulate their immune system to fend off infection. The individuals were exposed to a bacterial infection to investigate their bodies’ response. The study found that research subjects who utilized these techniques experienced fewer symptoms than those who didn’t. They were able to produce more anti-inflammatory chemicals to fight the bacterial infection and less pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Similarly, doctors observed that people who did cold plunges had a higher white blood cell count than people who didn’t, according to this study. Exposure to colder temperatures allows white blood cells (those that fight infections) to circulate more quickly throughout our bodies, as evidenced in this medical study. At the same time, our body’s antibody and t-cell response are greatly improved through ice baths.

As suggested by these studies, cold immersion (particularly ice baths) directly affects and improves our immune system. These ice bath benefits are truly limitless.

Prevents (and helps with) mental illnesses such as depression

Depression is a mental health condition that is the leading cause of disability worldwide. While there isn’t a one-size fits all solution to curing this illness, ice baths can help.

As this study suggests, cold exposure has a similar effect to antidepressants. Cold receptors send a jolt of electrical impulses to the brain’s nerve endings in cold water. This can trigger “happy” hormones and improve a person’s psychological state.

Moreover, several studies propose that cold immersion can help alleviate both anxiety and depression. The following case study involved a young woman who had experienced depression and anxiety since she was 17 years old. Seven years after the onset of this mental condition, she started a weekly program that involved swimming in cold open water. Over time, the depression and anxiety symptoms reduced significantly, so much that she stopped taking medication. During a check-up one year later, her medical doctor noted that regular cold-water swimming continued to keep her depression and anxiety symptoms at bay.

Taking an ice bath activates the sympathetic nervous system. It increases blood levels of noradrenaline and other endorphins such as beta-endorphins. This further increases the synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain, reducing depression, anxiety, and OCD symptoms without the side effects of antidepressants. As such, this is absolutely one of the best benefits of ice baths, hands down.

Looking to splurge on the ultimate ice bath? The Cold Plunge is a revolutionary product that’s ideal for indoor and outdoor use. It’ll cost you a pretty penny, but it will change your life!

The Cold Plunge is a top ice bath for athletes
The Cold Plunge is a top ice bath for athletes

Improves skin and hair 

Did you know ice baths nourish the skin and hair? Health experts have found that exposure to cold water leads to smaller facial pores and tighter skin. It also prevents the body from releasing excess oils, as it would with exposure to warm water. As a result, ice baths help regulate oil levels, which makes the skin and hair feel moisturized. With regard to hair, exposure to cold water improves hair health, protecting it from damage that hot water could cause, which helps hair grow longer and thicker.

Hot water, on the other hand, dries out the skin and can lead to greasy hair. In the words of dermatologist Lance Brown, MD, “hot water strips away some of the natural, protective oils that your skin makes, which can leave skin feeling dry and itchy.” Especially skin conditions like eczema or rosacea can worsen as a result.

In addition to the scientific benefits of cold exposure, it also makes our skin look healthier. Our hair gets a natural shine and our skin becomes soft (as opposed to dry and itchy).

If your skin or hair is fairly dry, try taking an ice bath. I have benefitted immensely from cold exposure, and I know you will, too!

Boosts fertility

Fertility isn’t usually top of mind when it comes to benefits of ice baths. Nevertheless, recent studies have shown that cold immersion affects testosterone levels, so they are clearly linked.

Mayo Clinic has found that almost 15% of couples are infertile. Some of these fertility issues are attributed to men’s health.

This PubMed study shows that ice baths and testosterone levels are correlated. The body increases testosterone production when faced with cold water. In addition, one study found that the concentration and sperm count are considerably increased when testicles are cooled. Conversely, exposure to warmth, such as hot baths, is attributed to decreasing sperm count, particularly shorter term.

Overall, cold immersion and fertility are definitely correlated, even though there hasn’t been extensive research in the field.

One of the best benefits of ice baths: Boosts energy

Several research studies have concluded that ice baths improve our energy levels. Exposure to cold water raises our oxygen levels, respiration rate and heart rate through cold thermogenesis, a process that stimulates nerve endings in our skin. As a result, we experience increased energy levels and awareness, in addition to improved cardiac function. Is this one of the top ice bath benefits? Definitely!

Ice bath benefits on the body are especially the case for athletes
Ice bath benefits on the body are especially the case for athletes

Better lymphatic movement

Ice baths considerably affect the lymphatic system, the web of vessels in the body that (among other functions) remove cellular waste to improve the body’s response to infections and diseases. The lymphatic system is composed of lymph nodes and vessels, bone marrow, lymphatic fluid, and the spleen.

The lymphatic system moves lymph fluid through the body’s vessels based on muscle contractions. A sluggish or stagnant lymphatic system can lead to an increase of fluids and toxins, which can cause colds, joint problems and illness.

A study by the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that cold immersion positively affect lymphatic circulation. Throughout this As part of this study, participants were given bags of cold water to apply to their ankles. 34°F (1°C) water considerably enhanced lymph flow. Moreover, applying pressure to cold enhanced this effect. This is because cold water causes lymph vessels to contract The reason for this is simple: cold water makes your lymph vessels contract, which in turn improves the flow of lymph fluid through the body. As a result, waste is being flushed out and the immune system is stimulated.

For this reason, ice baths improve the lymphatic system and benefit our health.

Ice baths enhance our psychological well-being

As I’ve mentioned, ice baths positively impact our cognitive stream and might even function as an antidepressant.

A study by the International Journal of Circumpolar Health (which investigated winter swimming in Finland), found that regular swimming in the cold water caused higher well-being. This can be explained by the release of norepinephrine (an anti-stress hormone/neurotransmitter), as well as adrenaline as the body is exposed to cold water, leading to positive emotions. As a result, ice baths are helpful in improving our psyche. Is this one of the most important ice bath benefits? For sure!

Ice baths enhance sleep

Many research studies have associated cold showers and other types of cold exposure with better sleep.

In this study performed on male endurance runners, participants immersed in cold water for 10-15 minutes experienced a drop in body temperature and fewer nighttime arousals. The reason for this is simple: cold showers trigger the body’s sympathetic nervous system (“fight of flight” response). However, shortly after the cold-water “stressor” is no longer present, the Vagus nerve is stimulated. This leads to feelings of peace and calm in the body.

In addition to cold showers, this study performed on distance runners in China evidenced that cryotherapy also enhances sleep quality. Regardless of the type of cold water exposure therapy, it’s clear that whole-body cold immersion benefits sleep.

A polar plunge a day keeps the doctor away
A polar plunge a day keeps the doctor away

Enhances alertness

Ice baths are said to improve focus and mental alertness. This is because the sympathetic nervous system is activated by the small shock from cold immersion. When our “fight or flight” nervous system is activated, the brain’s cognitive capacities are stimulated. As a result, our alertness, concentration and focus are enhanced, making it one of the best mental health benefits of ice baths.

Enhances athletic performance

As already mentioned, cold baths benefit our exercise routine by reducing inflammation and helping with recovery. Given these significant advantages of hydrotherapy, many famous athletes choose to keep an ice bath in their home. For this reason, gyms and athletic facilities (especially the ones professional athletes frequent) also usually offer cold plunges.

Cold water isn’t just helpful for post-workout recovery, but it also helps athletes cool off after working out. Ice baths bring down inflammation and body temperature, which can maximize athletic performance.

One of the top ice bath benefits: alkalizes blood

This is one of those benefits of cold immersion that isn’t as well known.

At birth, the blood pH level is 7.4, and throughout our lives, it gets more acidic. There are two environmental factors leading to this: our diet and our environment. More acidic blood means that oxygen and energy is more inefficiently transported to the cells. However, with a less acidic blood pH (a higher pH level), our arteries, blood vessels and cells retain a higher level of oxygen, preventing aging and degeneration.

Using ice baths to alkalinize the blood has similar health benefits to eating more alkaline foods. Watch the below video if you’re curious about the benefits of cold immersion on the blood in the body.

Ice baths enhance lung function

This benefit of ice baths isn’t surprising when you think about the deep involuntary breathing we do when we’re exposed to the cold. Our lung function can significantly benefit from being exposed to cold water according to this study by PubMed.

The two primary factors that affect the transport of oxygen in the lungs are the temperature and hydrostatic pressure as mentioned in the study. Ice baths enhance both due to the increased cardiac output from hydrostatic counter pressure and heating. When people first step into the cold water, they may feel breathless for a moment due to the lungs working hard in regulating the nervous system. As a result, taking a dip in the icy waters improves our overall lung function.

Cold baths lead to stable blood sugar levels

Blood sugar (or glucose) transports the energy found in food to the body’s cells. By regulating blood sugar levels, we can better prevent health issues like vision loss, diabetes, heart diseases, and kidney disease. Ice baths are a great way to achieve this, similar to the other benefits I’ve touched on.

The protein that regulates blood sugar levels is called adiponectin. People with insulin resistance typically have low levels of adiponectin. This study looked into the impact of cold exposure on adiponectin levels in males, and was able to demonstrate a 70% increase in those who were exposed to the cold. As a result, insulin resistance decreases and our metabolism improves. In addition, cold exposure, particularly swimming in icy waters, can help us burn body fat. As you can see, the research has found strong evidence of the positive effects ice baths can have on obesity, as well as some other health conditions (as mentioned above). Time to get chilly!

The ideal nature location for an ice cold swim.
The ideal nature location for an ice cold swim.

Safety tips for ice baths

While there are so many ice bath benefits that justify this practice, it doesn’t come without risks. Here are some safety tips around ice bathing that you should know about:

Talk with your doctor to see if ice baths are safe for you

Taking an ice bath puts stress on the body. This in turn affects circulation, heart rate, and blood pressure. If you have an underlying health condition or are otherwise curious about how cold exposure will impact your body, consider seeking medical advice from your healthcare practitioner.

Though there are risks associated with ice bathing, cold immersion is good for pretty much anyone. It’s just a matter of finding the right dose (temperature and time spent in the tub).

Looking to make a polar plunge in nature? Always bring someone with you

If you’re taking an ice bath somewhere in nature, it’s a good idea to have someone close by. Prolonged exposure to frigid water temperatures can impair your judgment (and reasoning). As a result, some people can push themselves too far. So, doing ice baths in nature with a group is the way to go. This is especially the case if you are doing cold water swimming.

Ice bath in a lake in Sweden
Ice bathing the natural way…in a lake in Sweden!

Keep your ice baths relatively short

To take advantage of the full ice bath benefits, just a few minutes in the tub is all you need. Staying in longer than 3-5 minutes can be helpful for willpower and mental fortitude. However, there’s no scientific research evidencing any significant benefits beyond that.

Banff National Park in Canada is the perfect spot for cold water immersion therapy.
Banff National Park in Canada is the perfect spot for cold water immersion therapy.

Help your body warm up naturally after the ice bath

If you overdo it in an ice bath, your body temperature may continue dropping after getting out of the water. Though unlikely, this could lead to hypothermia, a health condition associated with low body temperatures. According to Outdoor Swimming Community, the following steps can help you warm up safely after an ice bath.

  • Remove wet clothes and dry off
  • Walk and do gentle movements & stretches
  • Do not take a hot shower immediately after your ice bath. This sudden and drastic temperature change could make you feel lightheaded
  • Drink a warm drink such as tea (avoid coffee immediately after an ice bath)
  • Eat something with sugar and electrolytes
  • Put on your dry, warm layers, including a hat and gloves (if outside)

After an ice bath, I prefer to warm up naturally through gentle movements and slow and controlled breathing. To enjoy the full benefits of ice bathing, it’s better to let the body warm up naturally rather than rely on external forces. Brown fat activation, which occurs as a result of an ice bath, is excellent great way to generate body heat. As such, it’s a healthier way to warm up than a sauna or hot shower.

After my cold exposures, I always like to stand in the horse stance. Commonly used in Asian martial arts, this posture helps you activate the biggest muscle groups in your legs to generate heat. Below is a video that shows you how to do this position:

Alternatives to ice baths

Looking to try cold immersion, but aren’t ready to dive into ice baths just yet? Here are some alternatives to ice baths with similar health benefits.

1. Cold showers

This is a simple and effective way to expose your body to cold temperatures. Though cold showers are not as cold as ice baths, they can be equally (if not more) challenging. When taking an ice bath, the biggest challenge is the initial shock. After about a minute or so, the heart rate comes down and it’s easier to relax and focus on your breath. On the contrary, cold showers, which entail moving around and exposing different parts of the body to the water, are not as easy to get into a “flow” state. With cold showers, the thermal layer doesn’t form in the same way it does with ice baths, thus making it more mentally challenging. Read more: Top Benefits of Taking Cold Showers.

2. Cryotherapy

This is another popular modality in the world of cold therapy. It’s offered at special gyms, spas, and wellness centers. Whole body cryotherapy involves going into a cold chamber with liquid nitrogen, nitrous oxide, or argon gas. The temperatures inside the cryotherapy chamber can be as low as -200°F (-129°C). All you need is 2-3 minutes to retain the full health benefits.

3. Swimming outdoor in nature

For those who desire a more natural approach to wellness, this is a solid alternative to taking ice baths. I prefer to go swimming in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, particularly during the cold winter months in Boston. This is a great solution for those who live in cold climates like myself. Read more: Guide to Cold Water Swimming.

FAQs about ice baths

Here are some frequently asked questions about ice bathing and their many purported benefits.

Can you explain the science behind the benefits of ice baths?

Sure thing! Ice baths work by constricting blood vessels, which in turn reduces blood flow to the muscles. This causes a decrease in inflammation and pain, leading to faster recovery and improved performance. Additionally, the cold temperature can also stimulate the release of endorphins, leading to an improved mood and reduced stress.

Who can practice ice baths?

Most people can handle ice baths without a problem. However, people with underlying conditions should consider seeking professional advice from their doctors before participating in this activity.

In the western world, the medical establishment is reluctant to endorse ice baths for kids. However, in Siberia and Scandinavia where cold immersion is a big part of the culture, young kids practice it without any discernible issues. As such, I encourage you to do your own research to determine if ice bathing is a good idea for you and your family.

Ice plunge benefits are endless
Ice plunge benefits are endless

Is it true that ice baths can boost the immune system?

While there is limited research on the effects of ice baths on the immune system, some studies have shown that regular cold exposure can lead to an increase in white blood cells, which play a key role in the immune system. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of ice baths on the immune system.

How long should I stay in an ice bath for maximum benefits?

While the jury is still out on when you can reap the maximum health benefits from an ice bath, there’s significant evidence that 3-5 minutes is generally considered the sweet spot.

If you’re only doing an ice bath for part of your body (i.e. your lower torso and legs), you can do up to 10-15 minutes. During cryotherapy, 2 minutes is generally advised. But again, it really depends on your physical ability, experience level, and “why” for doing the ice baths. As such, I recommend finding an ice bath practitioner in your area who can provide advice on your specific situation.

No matter who you are, it’s always a good idea to start low and slow before advancing to the recommended range. This will give your body the ability adjust to the cold water over time.

Enjoying ice bath benefits from a tropical location.
Enjoying ice bath benefits from a tropical location.

Can ice baths be used for recovery after a workout or only for injury recovery?

Ice baths can be beneficial for both injury recovery and post-workout recovery. The cold temperatures can help to reduce inflammation and pain, leading to faster recovery. Regular ice baths can also improve overall performance by reducing muscle soreness and fatigue.

For more information on this, read next: Guide to Ice Bathing for Exercise Recovery.

Are ice baths safe?

Yes, ice baths are safe for most people. However, it’s important to follow the safety steps above.

While ice baths can be beneficial, they can also be dangerous if not done properly. It’s important to start with a shorter duration and gradually increase the time spent in the bath. The water should also be at a temperature of around 50-59°F (10-15°C) to avoid hypothermia. People with certain medical conditions, such as Raynaud’s disease, should also consult a doctor before trying an ice bath.

Not only is cold exposure considered safe, it is widely practiced across different cultures.
Not only is cold exposure considered safe, it is widely practiced across different cultures.

Where can you learn how to take ice baths?

These days, you can learn about ice bathing online and at workshops. If you have access to cold water and a bathtub, you can practice it pretty much anywhere. I learned the Wim Hof Method and other techniques at home. In Boston (where I live), the tap water during the winter months comes out at 40°F (4.4°C). This is the absolutely perfect for ice baths.

For more information on the technique behind ice baths, including different breathing methods, read next: Wim Hof Ice Bath Guide.

In addition to doing ice baths at home, you can also do them in other places. Nowadays, you’ll find polar plunges in many wellness spas, fitness centers, and athletic facilities. Also, personal development retreats, like the one I did in Iceland, will help you become a master of the cold. Many retreat locations around the world have onsite cold plunges.

Are ice baths only for athletes or can they be beneficial for everyone?

Ice baths can be beneficial for anyone looking to improve recovery and reduce pain and inflammation. While they are commonly used by athletes, they can also be beneficial for people with chronic pain or injuries, as well as those looking to improve overall health and wellness. In my experience, many of the best ice bathers don’t have natural athletic abilities. A passion for personal development and health/wellness is the best motivation to enter this world of ice baths.

Ice bath benefits in 2023

Ice baths are like a “cool” way to boost your health and fitness game. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who are willing to take the plunge, the ice-bath benefits are undeniable.

From reducing muscle soreness and inflammation, to boosting the immune system and improving mood, ice baths can be a powerful tool for recovery and overall wellness. Plus, who doesn’t love the feeling of being a superhero after a hard workout or injury? Like the saying goes, “cold showers, warm hearts”, so don’t be afraid to jump into that ice bath and give your body the chill it needs.

If you’re looking to find inner peace and joy, the world of Wim Hof ice baths await you.


Have I missed any cold water therapy benefits? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Travels in your inner and outer journeys!

Jon

For further reading:

– Top Cold Immersion Tubs in 2023

– Edge Theory Labs – Cold Tub Review

– Coolest Retreat Centers in the World

– Why Sound Healing is Good For You

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Benefits of cold water baths are endless
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