Ice Baths: The Rise of Cold Therapy and How to Create Your Own DIY Ice Bath
Not long ago, jumping into an ice bath after a workout was considered a fringe concept that only extremists would contemplate. However, thanks to recent research, the influence of cold therapy guru Wim Hoff, and the widespread adoption by pro sports teams and players, ice baths have now entered the mainstream. The popularity of cold therapy has created a market for ice baths, but most of the options on the market are expensive and beyond the reach of an average person. Fortunately, making your own perfectly functional ice bath is not difficult. In this article, we will guide you through the process of creating your own DIY ice bath step-by-step.
What is Cold Therapy?
Cold therapy involves immersing oneself in freezing temperatures to create a mild stress that brings about health benefits. This can include immersing yourself in an ice bath, a cold lake, taking a cold shower, or undergoing a cryotherapy chamber session. The cold stress from cold water therapy activates genetic pathways that help us deal with stress, making it a form of hormetic stress.
How Does Cold Benefit the Body?
When the body experiences extreme stress, it releases a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. This feel-good chemical improves mood, attention, and focus. Research has shown that spending just twenty seconds in a 4.4 degrees Celsius ice bath can increase norepinephrine levels by 200-300%. Norepinephrine causes vasoconstriction, where the blood vessels constrict to preserve body heat. This, along with the process of mitochondrial biogenesis, helps conserve heat and burn more calories. Mitochondrial biogenesis increases energy generation, raises body temperature, and improves aerobic capacity.
Cold Therapy & Longevity
Studies conducted on animals have shown that cold therapy can promote longevity. For example, reducing the environmental temperature for flies from 27 to 21 degrees Celsius doubled their life spans. Similar studies on other creatures have found a negative correlation between temperature and lifespan. Researchers theorize that the increased lifespan resulting from cold therapy could be due to the hormesis theory, which involves introducing a shock to the body to elicit a reaction and prepare it for more acute forms of stress. Cold water therapy also decreases the metabolic rate, reducing the production of metabolic waste products that cause oxidative stress. It can also lower inflammation and boost the immune system.
5 Ice Bath Benefits
Here are five advantages of ice water plunges:
1. Improved Circulation: Plunging into ice-cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, directing more blood to vital organs and deeper tissues.
2. Enhanced Insulin Sensitivity: Cold therapy improves insulin sensitivity, allowing for greater glucose clearance from the bloodstream and improving metabolic health.
3. Stress Reduction: Ice baths decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol while increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels, producing a calming effect on the mind and body.
4. Improved Workout Recovery: Cold water therapy is an essential part of the recovery process for many professional athletes, as it has been shown to reduce muscle soreness after a workout.
5. Pain Reduction: Ice bath treatment can help alleviate both short-term and long-term pain by reducing inflammation and blocking certain nerve signals that cause pain.
Ice Bath Cautions
Before taking an ice bath, there are seven things to be aware of:
1. Risk of Hypothermia: Taking a cold plunge increases the risk of hypothermia, as the body loses heat faster than it can create it. Symptoms include confusion, shivering, and an irregular heartbeat.
2. Adapt Gradually: To avoid hypothermia, start with short sessions and gradually increase your time as your body adapts.
3. Pre-existing Conditions: If you have pre-existing medical conditions like heart problems, cold allergies, or Raynaud’s disease, consult your doctor before beginning ice bath therapy.
4. Cold Shock Response: Entering extremely cold water can trigger a dangerous condition known as cold shock response, which involves a sharp increase in pulse rate and blood pressure. To avoid this, enter the ice bath slowly, one foot at a time.
5. Supervision: It is important to have someone regularly check on you while you are in the ice bath, as people have been known to pass out, which can be fatal without assistance.
6. Hygiene: Regularly clean and maintain your ice bath, especially if multiple people use it, to minimize the risk of skin or bacterial infections.
7. Post-Bath Warm-up: After exiting the ice bath, gradually warm up your body to prevent any sudden changes in temperature.
Creating Your DIY Ice Bath
Now that you understand the benefits and precautions of ice baths, let’s dive into creating your own DIY ice bath. Follow these steps:
1. Choose a suitable container: You can use a large plastic tub, a bathtub, or even a horse trough. Ensure it is clean and can hold enough water to cover your body.
2. Fill the container with water: Use cold tap water or add ice to achieve the desired temperature.
3. Monitor the temperature: Use a thermometer to ensure the water is between 10-15 degrees Celsius. Adjust the water temperature accordingly.
4. Add ice: If the water temperature is not cold enough, add ice cubes or bags of ice to reach the desired temperature.
5. Test the water: Before getting in, test the water with your hand or foot to ensure it is not too cold or too hot.
6. Enter the ice bath slowly: Start by immersing your feet and gradually lower your body into the water. Take your time to allow your body to adjust to the cold temperature.
7. Stay in the ice bath for 5-15 minutes: The duration can vary depending on your tolerance and experience with cold therapy. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time.
8. Warm up gradually: Once you are ready to exit the ice bath, warm up your body slowly by wrapping yourself in a warm towel or blanket. You can also take a warm shower to help raise your body temperature.
Remember, it is important to listen to your body and adjust the temperature and duration of your ice bath accordingly. If you experience any discomfort or adverse effects, discontinue the practice and consult a healthcare professional.
In conclusion, ice baths and cold therapy have gained popularity due to their numerous health benefits. Creating your own DIY ice bath is a cost-effective way to experience these benefits without breaking the bank. By following the steps outlined in this article and taking necessary precautions, you can safely incorporate ice baths into your wellness routine. Stay cool and enjoy the benefits of cold therapy!