For athletes and active people, cold water therapy isn’t just for the feeling-good benefits: it can also accelerate muscle recovery, boost energy levels, strengthen the immune system and improve overall health. Injuries and pain are a fact of life, but exposing post-workout muscles to cold water (or ice baths) reduces the inflammation in tendons and joints that can lead to stiffness, so you’ll be back in action sooner.
In addition to the physical benefits, regular exposure to cold water can help with mental wellbeing and even depression. As a natural stress reliever, it can stimulate the release of endorphins, your body’s natural feel-good hormones.
Exposing the body to cold water activates the immune system and helps increase blood flow to vital organs, resulting in improved circulation. This has been shown to help prevent cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke.
The alternating blasts of cold and hot also helps to increase muscle and joint mobility by repeatedly expanding and contracting the muscles, which gets your blood flowing and flushes away any build-up lactic acid or other toxins.
For anyone thinking of adding cold water therapy to their routine, Fullerton warns that it’s important not to go overboard: “A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that more is better – the key is balance and a gradual introduction,” she says. If you’re new to cold immersion, a few seconds in a shower or cold bath should be enough to feel the benefits. Staying in for too long can put you at risk of hypothermia and even frostbite.