Whether you’re already an ice bath enthusiast or are interested in giving cold therapy a try, you may wonder how to time your cold water immersion sessions. Does it matter when you take a cold plunge, or is there a best time for an ice bath? Keep reading to learn what the science says about when to take an ice bath.
Why Does the Timing of Cold Therapy Matter?
People turn to cold water immersion for a variety of reasons, and your goals could affect the best time to take an ice bath. For some people, cold therapy is a key part of a post-workout recovery routine. For others, cold water immersion is a non-pharmaceutical way to manage chronic pain. Others use cold therapy to boost their mental well-being.
Regardless of your goals, the timing of your cold therapy sessions could affect your alertness and sleep quality. Soaking in cold water is an invigorating process that can have a stimulating effect, so you may prefer to take a cold plunge earlier in the day to wake your body up. Later in the evening, cold exposure may not be ideal: Research shows that soaking in hot water in the evening could help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep.
When Is the Best Time for an Ice Bath for Muscle Recovery?
Ice baths are a popular post-workout recovery ritual for professional athletes and casual gymgoers alike. Soaking in cold water after a hard workout can help your muscles recover and reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). But when’s the best time for a cold plunge?
As previously recommended, you can hop in a post-workout ice bath right after your training session. But if you prefer to do other post-recovery rituals like stretching or foam rolling first, that’s ok—you can take an ice bath within 2 hours of the end of your workout.
When your muscles are sore after a hard workout, the idea of preparing an ice bath can feel overwhelming. Prepare your ice bath before you head to the gym, so it’s ready to go when you’re done with your workout. The Ice Barrel comes with a lid and cover to keep the water icy cold until you’re ready to take the plunge.
When Is the Best Time for an Ice Bath for Pain Relief?
Cold water therapy may be an effective complementary therapy for back pain and inflammatory conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. If you want to use cold plunges to manage a chronic inflammatory condition, you may wonder when to take an ice bath.
Symptom levels in inflammatory conditions can fluctuate alongside the circadian clock. People with rheumatoid arthritis tend to have greater joint pain and stiffness early in the morning. This is due, in part, to a natural rise in proinflammatory proteins during the early morning hours. Since cold plunging has well-known anti-inflammatory effects, you may choose to take a cold plunge soon after waking up to counteract morning pain and stiffness.
When Is the Best Time for an Ice Bath for Mental Well-being?
Cold water immersion can have a significant impact on mental well-being. One study found that a single cold water immersion session boosted energy and reduced anger, depression, and fatigue. Cold therapy’s mood-boosting properties can make it an appealing complementary treatment for people living with conditions like anxiety and depression. For mood benefits, does it matter when you take a cold plunge?
A recent study found that people living with depression tend to be inactive in the mornings, and the authors note that the early morning hours could be an effective time to schedule mood-boosting activities. Consider taking a cold plunge in the morning to improve your mood and start your day on the right foot.
How Often Should You Cold Soak?
Now that you know when to take an ice bath to reach your goals, you may wonder how often to take a cold plunge. The ideal frequency of cold water immersion can vary depending on what you hope to achieve.
If you’re using cold water immersion for post-workout recovery, you can take an ice bath after every training session. So if you’re currently training 5 days a week, you might plan to take an ice bath 5 times a week.
For chronic disease management, you might choose to add daily ice baths to your routine. Several studies have reported that daily cold therapy sessions reduce pain in people with rheumatic or degenerative diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or chronic low back pain. Your doctor or pain management specialist may have more specific advice for your situation.
Ice bathers who are seeking wellness benefits could also take a cold plunge daily. One study reported a significant reduction in depression in people who did cold therapy daily from Monday through Friday.
Add Ice Baths to Your Routine With Ice Barrel
Whatever your goals for your cold water immersion practice, Ice Barrel makes it easy to add ice baths to your routine. Simply fill the barrel with water and your desired quantity of ice and hop in.
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