Ice Bath Is Popular
Ice bath is becoming so famous amongst the population so that the majority of the wellness, fitness and detox retreats all over the world offer, or even promote this practice to their customers. I can understand that most of the people are not enough into health research to find out if ice bath has a real benefit, but from a scientist point of view, it’s scary to see that retreats and even trainers and coaches can claim the advantage for recovery or muscle pain of ice bath. Do we have at least some scientific evidences?
Once Upon a Time
Let’s come back to the start in 2002, when the marathon runner Paula Radcliffe won the 10,000m. She attributed her victory to the use of ice baths. She reportedly said “It’s absolute agony, and I dread it, but it allows my body to recover so much more quickly.”
After the Radcliffe comment, and without any scientific proof, the technique has grown in popularity among the population and athletes, such that some athletes (from all different sport) “swear by it”.
It is true that a small number of studies have report that after exercise, taking an ice bath may reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, but no good evidence of any other benefit*. In addition, the scientific community is unanimous about the fact that the majority of these studies lacked quality.
Moreover, the last study* (Fev, 2017) suggested that “cold water immersion is no more effective than active recovery for minimizing the inflammatory and stress responses in muscle after resistance exercise.”
Despite the growing number of scientific evidence* discrediting this technique, the population and some athletes (unfortunately) still continue to immerse themself into cold water.
I prefer to think that it’s just because they don’t have access to the latest studies rather than believe that they are simply masochist.
The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2002 Nov; 16(4): 561-6. The effects of cold-water immersion on power output and heart rate in elite cyclists. Schniepp J, Campbell TS, Powell KL, Pincivero DM.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Cold‐water immersion (cryotherapy) for preventing and treating muscle soreness after exercise. Chris Bleakley et al.
The Journal of Physiology. 2015; 593.18, pp 4285-4301. Post-exercise cold water immersion attenuates acute anabolic signaling and long-term adaptations in muscle to strength training. Llion A. Roberts et al.
Journal of Applied Physiology. December 16, 2010; 110: 382-388. Influence of icing on muscle regeneration after crush injury to skeletal muscles in rats. Ryo Takagi et al.
Journal of Physiology. 2017 Feb 1; 595(3): 695-711. The effects of cold water immersion and active recovery on inflammation and cell stress responses in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. Peake JM et al.