There has been so much hype about the benefits of ice bathing and cold water therapy over the last few years, but does it work? I’ve put both to the test and I’m here to share what results I’ve found from my first-hand experiences of cold water swimming and cold plunges. I’m actually writing this as I’ve just returned from a festival where I started day two of the event with breath-work followed by an ice bath in the woods. It was incredible and an amazing opportunity to put theory into practice and see whether the hype is actually true and whether ice bathing can have a positive effect on your physical and mental wellbeing.

My regular readers will know I’m already a big fan of wild swimming and naturally these often end up being cold swims which I find hugely beneficial for my mental health, read on to find out whether you could benefit from introducing ice bathing and cold water therapy into your daily life. Check out this blog post on the 23 Best Wild Swimming Spots in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Benefits of Ice Bathing and Cold Water Therapy – Mauritian woman in pink bathing suit laying in ice bath smiling

Ice Bathing and Cold Water Therapy

What are Ice Bathing and Cold Water Therapy?

Ice bathing, or cold water immersion therapy, is a technique often used as part of a sports training regime by athletes as a way of supporting recovery after exercise. There are different methods depending on whether you choose to submerse yourself in an ice bath, go for a cold water plunge or wild swim, or try it out at home using the cold shower technique. These techniques can be used to promote health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally, and to manage or even prevent ill-health. One of the most famous techniques is by the world-famous Wim Hof, a motivational speaker who teaches the Wim Hof Method for cold water immersion therapy and ice bathing. Cold Water Therapy is also often combined with heat therapies, for example many Scandinavian countries combine saunas with ice plunges as a way of supporting the immune system.

Is Ice Bathing safe? Safety tips for Ice Baths

Yes Ice Bathing is safe. It is not recommended for you to exceed 15 minutes in an ice bath as you can put yourself at risk of hypothermia or frost bite, or drowning if open water swimming. It’s important to minimise risks by plunging supervised, especially if children are trying the ice bath. Always plunge sober, remember to breathe, go feet first and allow enough time to warm yourself up afterwards. If you are pregnant or suffer from heart problems or high blood pressure, ice bathing is not recommended. Don’t push yourself too hard and always have a friend nearby. It’s also important to never take a warm/hot bath or shower too soon after ice bathing as it can cause your body to go into shock.

Cold immersion therapy –  tanned woman stands next to ice bath in pink swimsuit in the woodland

What happens to your body in an Ice Bath?

When you take an ice bath or try cold water therapy, your body naturally reacts to the cold exposure by narrowing your blood vessels which limits and slows the blood flow to your muscles. This is why athletes often use cold water therapy to aid their recovery, it can help to reduce soreness and inflammation of the muscles. The cold water exposure helps to desensitise your body to the cold and shocks your immune system. When you climb out of the cold water / ice bath, your blood vessels rapidly reopen which causes the increased blood flow to flush out your body of waste and toxins replenishing your metabolism. Your body is flooded with dopamine which is why you feel so good after an ice bath.

How often should I have an Ice Bath?

Ice bathing is recommended 2-4 times per week to achieve maximum benefits. 

How can I try Cold Water Therapy?

It’s easy to replicate cold water therapy and ice baths at home so don’t think you need lots of expensive equipment. You can start to introduce cold water immersion into your daily routine by running the cold water for a minute at a time in your morning shower. It’s a great way to wake yourself up and start your day, plus it’s in a controlled environment which can be comforting for those new to cold water treatment. Start by aiming for a minute, then build up to two, three, four and five. Remember the important thing is to control your breathing and take deep, slow breaths. Ready to level up? Why not try cold water wild swims? It’s a great way to get out in nature while trying cold water therapy. If you’re ready to try ice bathing, you could build, or invest in, an at-home ice bath. There’s lots of them available now and they’re a great way to bing ice bathing into your daily routine.

Cold water therapy, woman in pink adidas swimsuit steps into ice bath in woodland

8 Benefits of Ice Bathing & Cold Water Therapy

Here’s 8 benefits of trying ice bathing and cold water therapy – can you think of any others?

  • Reducing muscle soreness or inflammation after exercise
  • Improves sleep and relaxation
  • Boosted immune system
  • Increased energy levels
  • Combat signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Lowering body temperature
  • Increase focus which helps with meditation
  • Improved circulation

Benefits of Ice Bathing – woman stands in ice bath completing breath work in pink swimsuit

Why I love Ice Bathing & Cold Water Therapy

For me, it’s the sense of calm that follows the moment that I dip a toe into the icy water. I love the feeling as the ice slips over my skin and I feel a wave come over me. I love cold water immersion therapy because it clears my mind and keeps me focused on nothing but the present moment. For a busy mind, it’s the perfect way to drown out the noise and give yourself a moment of peace. I love the feeling of achievement as you up the length of time you can stay in the water, it’s a real test of determination and spirit. I love the challenge that ice bathing presents, it’s a battle of wills and it is your strength of mind which prevails.

Of course, you can’t go ice bathing without the perfect swimsuit. Mine, pictured, is the adidas Iconisea 3-stripes swimsuit which is perfect for activities like ice bathing and cold water therapy. It’s super flattering but also very supportive and nicely covered which for early mornings of ice bathing in the forest is vital! If you fancy trying ice bathing or cold water immersion therapy, adidas has the perfect collection of women’s swimwear which is perfect for getting active and outside.