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Tips for Cold Water Therapy

Immersion in cold water is definitely an activity that divides people – some love it others hate it. But many now practice it weekly or even daily in the belief that it’s good for their mental and physical health.

Cold water therapy, as it has come to be known, can take the form of outdoor swimming – in lakes, rivers or the ocean – cold showers or even ice baths. It has been used for a while by sportspeople as a way to reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery time – with people typically spending about ten minutes after exercise in cold water that’s about 10-15°C.

Cold water has also been used to help treat symptoms of depression, pain and migraine. Indeed, there are many accounts of how cold water therapy has changed lives, cured broken hearts and helped people during difficult times.

While many studies have shown benefits linked to ice baths and post-exercise recovery, research from 2014 found there could be a placebo effect going on here.

Cold water tips

If you are wanting to give cold water therapy a go, here are some things to consider:

  • Check with your GP beforehand to make sure it’s safe for you to do.
  • Make sure you’re not alone and the water is safe – if outdoors consider tides, currents, waves, underwater obstacles, pollution and jelly fish.
  • Plan how you’re going to get in and out of the water safely (remember that your muscles won’t work as well when you’re cold and you may not be able to feel with your hands and feet).
  • Know how you’re going to get warm afterwards – make sure you have towels, dry clothes, windproofs, a hot drink and somewhere to shelter. Don’t drive or cycle until you have completely warmed up.
  • Only stay in cold water for a short period of time, get out before you experience numbness, pain or shivering.

Heather Massey, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science & Health, School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth; Clare Eglin, Principal Lecturer in the School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, and Mike Tipton, Professor of Human and Applied Physiology, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation. 

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