award png

Ice baths have grown in popularity over recent years with them being easy to access or to make on your own. More and more people are using them to help with their training and other benefits such as improved mental health.

Whether you are using the ice bath at your local gym or at home it is important to understand how to use them safely as well as the science behind them.

What is an ice bath?

Contrary to popular belieft, an ice bath does not have to be a subzero affair. In fact, at temperatures near freezing we would only be able to survive 15-20 minutes before the brain and heart stop functioning. 

For an ice bath, the water should be around 10-15 degrees Celsius (around 50-60 Fahrenheit). This usually takes around 10 minutes to achieve if using a 3:1 water to ice ratio, or instantly if it is just ice in the tub.

What are the potential advantages of ice baths and what does the research say?

Helps with muscle soreness and recovery after exercise:

The aim of an ice bath is to “blunt” inflammation in the soft tissues and bone. This can make muscles feel less sore and therefore “more recovered”. There is contraversy around whether blunting inflammation after a heavy work out is determental to healing and repair, as natural inflammation is a key component of tissue regeneration. 

Helps with alterness and mental health:

Anyone who has taken an ice bath can voucher for the fact it is certainly a shock to the system. The cold temperature awakens our sympathetic nervous system and “flight or fight” response. This makes us feel energised and ready for action. There are some longer term studies to suggest that ice baths can help with conditions such as depression and anxiety and can boost serotonin levels. 

Helps with energy levels:

As described above, ice baths do awaken the senses which can make us feel energised. However, they do not add fuel into muscle or replenish energy stores in the body. An ice bath should certainly not replace a well considered balanced diet as a recovery strategy. 

Regulating your breathing:

With regularity of practice, ice baths and cold water emmersion in general have been shown to help people regulate breathing better and practice activating the “parasympathetic” nervous system when in a state of shock. Over time can teach us how to calm the body and mind. These benefits, however, can be easily found with meditation and breathing practices on land!

Boost metabolism and weight loss:

Ice baths have been shown by many studies to increase metabolism and improve body sugar and insulin control. It mainly does this by converting white fat cells (which build up fat) into brown fat cells (which break down glucose and fat) . 

Improve athletic and mental performance:

There is no currrent evidence that demonstrates improved athletic or mental performance (in any cohort of elite athletes) with the regular use of ice baths. Having said that, ice baths are a frequently used tool by all kinds of sportspeople (who swear by the practice) so it may be that the evidence just has not caught up yet. 

Other benefits of ice baths:

There have been other quoted benefits of ice baths including. All of these have limited scientific, but some anecdotal evidence.

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Improving circulation
  • Increasing libido
  • Improving cardiovascular health

Before you take the plunge…

It is important to highlight that even though ice baths are relatively safe they can be some medical conditions contraindicated. It is important to consult with a suitably qualified healthcare professional is you are not sure whether and ice bath is appropriate for you. Make sure you are in a safe enviromental before taking an ice bath, with at least one other person around and able to help if need be. 

If ice baths don’t appeal to you, cold showers also have some scientific and anecdotal benefit. Try turning down the temperature of your shower to one you can just about tolerate, then push this lower each day. If you love a hot bath, alternating hot-cold water emmersion also has some proven benefits so is worth considering. 

Lastly, ice baths should not be a replacement for good and simple recovery strategies such as healthy eating, sleep and following a sensible training programme. But, if you have the basics right and are looking for an extra edge, then it may be worth a try. Good luck!

Recent posts
Subscribe to the free sports medicine newsletter

The medical world can sometimes be daunting. Our experts discuss the latest medical updates in the sport, health and fitness world, and break it down for you into and an easy to understand, digestible summary. And of course, it’s free.

If you have a particular health care question in mind, please get in touch to let us know and we will do our best to guide you.

The LBSM newsletter, written by our doctors, for our patients.

ISOBAR Referral

ISOBAR Referral Form
  • Patient Details
  • Clinician Details
  • Garments
    • Payment
    Patient Address
    Patient Address
    City
    County
    Postal Code
    Country
    Orla Mulligan
    Administration and Social Media Manager
    Administration, LBSM

    Orla Mulligan is the administration and social media manager for LBSM. She has a strong background in sport having herself played netball at an elite standard for the U21s Northern Ireland team in the European Championships as well as the U21s competition for Saracen Mavericks.

    She understands youth sport pathways having herself played and training in the netball Kent regional pathway. She has a keen interest in most sports and a good understanding of how injury and illness can impact on the mind and body, as well as rehabilitation pathways.

    She looks forward to speaking and assisting LBSM patients and gives her best support to them during their treatment pathway.

    A day in the life of Orla involves communicating with patients via phone and email, managing and organising clinics, operations and media management.

    Outside of work, Orla is a gym enthusiast, enjoys tennis and still finds the time for an occasional game of netball.

    Maddie Tait
    BSc, MSc
    Associate, LBSM
    Musculoskeletal and Sports Podiatrist

    Maddie treats and manages complex foot and ankle injuries in London and Surrey.

    She is particularly interested in helping her patients improve their quality of life and achieve their personal goals, working closely with Foot and Ankle Consultants, Sports Medicine Doctors and Physiotherapists.

    Maddie has a sporting background herself having previously represented England in Hockey. She understands the demands of elite sport and the importance of physical and mental health. In her spare time, Maddie continues to enjoy an active lifestyle by running, cycling and attending a Pilates class.

    Having graduated from University of Brighton with a MSc (hons) in Podiatry, Maddie focused her career in Podiatric Sports Injuries and Biomechanics. Previously she completed a BSc (hons) in Sport Science at Loughborough University.

    A day in the life of Maddie involves consulting patients in clinic, performing gait and biomechanical assessments, measuring and fitting orthotics and braces. She also regularly teaches and presents at sports medicine and podiatry conferences.

    Outside of work, Maddie still finds time to play hockey and enjoys running and skiing.

    Mr Prakash Saha
    MBBS, PhD, FRCS
    Consultant Partner, LBSM
    Consultant in Vascular Surgery

    Mr Prakash Saha is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at LBSM. He takes pride in providing the best possible results for his patients by using the most appropriate non-surgical and surgical methods based on clinical evidence, patient results and satisfaction.

    He treats fit and active people suffering with a range of cardiovascular issues, from painful leg swelling associated with exercise to venous insufficiency, post-thrombotic syndrome and leg ulcers. He also treats people with arterial system problems including poor circulation, compression syndromes and aneurysms. He carries out both endovascular and open aortic repair and has some of the best outcomes in the country.

    Mr Saha studied medicine at the United Medical & Dental Schools at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals before completing his higher surgical training in London and the South East. During this time, he was awarded the prestigious NIHR Clinical Lectureship in Vascular Surgery at St. Thomas’ Hospital, giving him comprehensive training in open and endovascular techniques for treating arterial and venous disease. Prakash completed his aortic surgery training at the St. George’s Vascular Institute before carrying out a specialist fellowship at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney.

    Mr Saha regularly lectures and runs workshops across the globe on the latest surgical techniques to treat vascular disease. He has also been awarded a number of research grants from the Royal College of Surgeons, the Circulation Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the British Heart Foundation, which has led to over 80 publications and the development of innovative technologies to help treat patients. For this work, Prakash has received a number of prizes, including the Venous Forum prize from the Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland, an International Young Investigator Award, and an Early Career Investigator Award from the American Heart Association.

    A day in the life of Mr Saha involves seeing patients in clinic, operating in surgical theatre or lecturing at his university. He also regularly teaches and presents at vascular and sports medicine conferences.

    Mr Saha is an avid cyclist and tennis player (although yet to get a set of Dr Seth!). Outside of work, he spends time with his family who consists of 3 children and enjoys travelling.

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran
    MBBS, FRCR
    Consultant Partner, LBSM
    Consultant in Sports and Musculoskeletal Radiology

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran is a Consultant Musculoskeletal Radiologist at LBSM, with an extensive background of working in elite sport. He is one of the most recognised radiologists in the sports medicine field. He provides top level imaging and medical diagnostic services for patients and athletes.

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran completed his undergraduate medical training at Imperial College London and his radiology training at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. He has obtained two post-CCT fellowships in musculoskeletal imaging. He was appointed as a consultant at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in 2011.

    He has a passion for all sports having worked as a radiologist at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and London World Athletic Championships and continues to support The Championships, Wimbledon. He also continues to work with a number of Premier League and Championship Football Clubs, Premier League Rugby Clubs, England Sevens Rugby, British Athletics and the Lawn Tennis Association.

    A day in the life of Dr Rajeswaran involves giving his expert opinion on investigations such as MRI and CT scans, x-rays and ultrasound. He also performs injection lists under ultrasound, CT and X-ray including spinal injections. He also regularly teaches and presents at sports medicine conferences.

    Dr Gajan Rajeswaran is an avid football fan and life-long fan of Tottenham Hotspur (for which he offers no apologies!). Outside of work, he spends time with his family and has a keen passion for photography.

    Dr Ajai Seth
    MBBS, BSc, MSc, MRCS, MRCGP, FFSEM
    Medical Director, LBSM
    Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine

    Dr Ajai Seth is a Sport and Exercise Medicine Physician. He has dedicated his career to helping people with sport and exercise related injury and illness. He consults and treats everyone from the elite athlete to the weekend warrior.

    Dr Ajai Seth is part of the British Tennis Sports Physician team at the LTA and has also provided cover to elite athletes at Wimbledon Tennis, European Tour Golf, Premier League Football, British Athletics, and the Men’s England Football academies as part of the FA.

    He also prides himself for working in disability sport and is currently the Chief Medical Officer for Team GB Wheelchair Tennis which has taken him to the Olympics and Paralympics.

    Dr Ajai Seth is dedicated to education, training and research and is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Medicine at King’s College London where he lectures in all aspects of Sports Medicine and Science.

    He also has a passion for travel and Expedition Medicine, which has seen him accompany medical, scientific and charity expeditions all around the world. He also has vast experience in treating musculoskeletal injuries from children and adolescents to veteran exercisers, both male and female.

    Dr Seth also has positions in leading Sport Medicine organisations, including the non-executive board for the UK’s largest Sports Medicine charity, BASEM and Past President for the Royal Society of Medicine. 

    A day in the working life of Dr Seth involves consulting his patients in clinic, performing diagnostics and ultrasound guided injections. He also regularly lectures and tutors students and presents at sports medicine conferences internationally. He also spends part of the working week at the National Tennis Centre, LTA, supporting British Tennis players.

    Outside of work, Dr Seth enjoys playing club tennis, triathlon, golf, running and skiing (but will give any sport a go!). He enjoys keeping fit and active and good quality family time with his wife and three children.