Taking a cold bath

Being an elite athlete is a pleasant experience on the whole. There is the joy and expansive energy associated with pushing yourself to your physical limits and the occasional bout of adulation from adoring fans does no harm either. There are downsides of course; training can be a pain and there is also the ever-present “physio” asking you to plunge up to your neck in freezing cold water after you exercise in an attempt to help your muscles recover. Now a new report has asked whether that cold water immersion does really help.

Researchers analysed seventeen trials which examined athletes who had performed a range of activities including resistance training, cycling or running. In all of the trials the athletes were asked to undertake “cryotherapy”, immersion in a cold water bath after the exercise. Bath temperatures were between ten and fifteen degrees Celsius and the participants stayed in the water for an average of 24 minutes.

The theory goes that the cold temperatures will reduce inflammation in muscles and the pain that goes with it.

The aggregated results showed that ice baths did lead to less muscle soreness after one to four days than simply resting the muscles. The researchers made the point though that in these trials cold water immersion was always compared to doing nothing or resting. It is possible that warm immersion, jogging, compression stockings, or any number of interventions might have had similar benefits without the unpleasantness of an ice bath.

Of course, for any extremely fit sportsman wanting to project an image of virility and vitality a warm both has a significant advantage over a freezing one: no shrinkage.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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