Post-Exercise Cold Water Immersion: An Effective Recovery Strategy

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Post-Exercise Cold Water Immersion

Cold Water Immersion (CWI) or cryotherapy is believed to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, as well as the overall time needed for recovery, according to a recent research.

According to a research, Winter swimming improves general well-being, Regular winter swimming significantly decreases tension, fatigue, memory, and mood negative state points with the duration of swimming period; accompanied with increase in vigor-activity scores; accompanied with relieve in pain suffered from rheumatism, fibromyalgia, or asthma; along with improved general well-being in swimmers. Vigour-activity scores were observed significantly greater (p < 0.05) during winters. All swimmers who suffered from rheumatism, fibromyalgia, or asthma, reported that winter swimming had relieved pains.

Cold Water Therapy

Post-Exercise Cold Water Immersion

To introduce your body to the idea, start by showering with hot or warm water and finishing with 20-30 seconds of the coldest water you can stand. Over the next few days, gradually increase the duration of the time you spend in the cold water. Recommended water temperature is between 54 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 15 degrees Celsius) and immersion time may vary from five to 10 minutes, and sometimes up to 20 minutes.

The theory behind ice baths is related to the fact that intense exercise causes microtrauma, that is tiny tears in your muscle fibers. This microscopic muscle damage is actually a goal of exercise as it stimulates muscle cell activity and helps repair the damage and strengthen the muscles (muscle hypertrophy). But at the same time it is also linked with delayed onset muscle pain and soreness (DOMS), which occurs between 24 and 72 hours after exercise.

The ice bath help:

  • Constrict blood vessels and flush waste products, like lactic acid, out of the affected tissues
  • Decrease metabolic activity and slow down physiological processes
  • Reduce swelling and tissue breakdown

If followed with rewarming, the increased blood flow is believed to speed up circulation, and in turn, improve the healing process.

Many athletes swear by an ice bath after intense training that helps them recover faster, prevent injury, and just feel better.

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Note: Cold water immersion is not advised for those with high blood pressure, acute illness/pain, Raynaud’s disease, or those with atherosclerosis.

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