Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Will Cold Water Immersion or an Ice Bath help my recovery?

April 6, 2018


When I first started seeing athletes in the early 2000s we often placed athletes in cold baths in an attempt to both reduce post workout soreness and facilitate recovery.  Since this time we have moved toward more active recovery strategies including aerobic exercise, corrective exercise, static stretching, and foam rolling.  A new study examined the impact of cold water immersion on an athlete’s recovery.

Anderson and colleagues placed athletes through 45 minutes of intermittent run training and then provided one of three 12 minute recovery methods: 14 degree C, 5 degree C, or a seated control group (J Strength Conditioning Research, 2018).  The athletes were assessed immediately after exercise over a 3 day period.  Peak power output measured on a cycle ergometer was improved in the 5 degree vs. 14 degree or control group 24 hours after exercise.  Conversely, both the control and 5 degree were more effective than the 14 degree C immersion at 48 and 72 hours.  Mean power output on the cycle ergometer was higher in the control vs. either cold water immersion group.  No changes were noted in either lactate or creatine kinase levels.  The authors concluded repeated bouts of exercise are initially impaired following cold water immersion and the treatments should not be used for acute recovery.  Athletes are encourage to choose more active recovery methods (cool down) as well as adequate nutrition, hydration, and sleep. 

No penguins were injured in the writing of this post