Ice bathing activates the flight or fight response and forces real time adaptation to cold stress.
This adaptation is responsible for many cascading health benefits.
You have experienced this adaptive response if you ever iced an injury to reduce swelling and pain.
This is an evolutionary adaptive response that occurs naturally in us and other mammals.
Our ancestors evolved over millions of years to withstand the cold and other environmental pressure.
Ice bathing is a strategic way to generate this adaptive response through low dose exposure.
The goal is to obtain all the benefits of being exposed to brutal cold without suffering hypothermia or other negative effects from overexposure to cold.
Small amount of exposure to cold environmental stress = significant health benefits.
Ice Bathing Health Benefits are Related to
Other Hormetic Stresses:
Ice Bathing Health Benefits Arise from Low Dose Stress
Everyone's adaptation to cold stress is different. Over time, you can compound exposure and increase your tolerance. For example, you can start with cold showers, add 5 to 10 seconds beyond your initial break point, and then graduate to ice baths. This is the same idea as increasing reps and sets of exercise leading to muscle expansion over time.
Everyone has a unique stress adaptation curve. As you build tolerance, your graph shifts to the right.
List of Ice Bathing Health Benefits:
*Below are some health benefits that peer reviewed science is beginning to reveal:
Increase Your Metabolism
Boost Your Immune System
Improve Cardiovascular Health
Mitigate Alzheimer's and Dementia
Stabilize blood sugar (increase insulin sensitivity)
Blast Through Anxiety
Address Mental Health
Contributes to Longevity
Speed Recovery Times
Leverage feel good hormones
Makes skin and hair look radiant
* Disclaimer: These claims are not approved by the FDA. You are responsible for your own research.
Cryotherapy vs. Ice Bathing: Cryotherapy Started the Trend Ice Bathing is the Mega Trend
For the past decade, cryotherapy has been the focus of cold immersion therapy. Even before cryotherapy chambers, football programs around the country have known experientially the beneficial effects of ice baths for recovery and pain relief. But it was not adopted mainstream until recently. Why?
Cryotherapy is more exclusive and inaccessible. It is skin deep in cold. It makes us feel we are doing a lot without significant amounts of pain. It feels new age; it feels like an investment.
However, due to the acuteness of fight or flight response activation, ice bathing is now the primary focus of cold therapy. The profound benefits of our brain stem releasing a cocktail or feel good hormones and neurotransmitters that emerges from ice bathing is too massive to ignore.
In addition, ice bathing and cold water therapy are more accessible than cryotherapy chambers. Anyone at base level can start with cold showers.
The different between ice bathing vs. cryotherapy is the difference between walking into a freezer vs. jumping into a frozen lake. Although cryotherapy touts -270° F, it is still only skin deep compared to cold water immersion. Also, where in nature can you find -270° environment? Where in our evolutionary history were we ever exposed to nitrogen gas chambers at that temperature?
In low amounts and with proper tolerance building over time, hormetic stressors cause a host of cascading beneficial effects on the body that we are just beginning to appreciate and that peer reviewed science is validating. Although it has been studied for decades, hormetic stressors are now gaining limelight as THE KEY PILLARS in health and wellness routines.
Simply put: ice bathing, cold plunging, cold immersion therapy, is a growing mega trend due to profound health benefits caused by forced adaptations to environmental stress.
Through strategic pain, we gain. Through pain, beauty, growth, new life arises. We come back stronger.
So what is the mechanism of action that turns pain and stress into repair and growth?
Ice Bathing Releases Large Amounts of Norepinephrine
Ice bathing turns on the flight or fight response almost immediately.
This is an adaptive response; your body knows it will die if it stays in this temperature long term.
This response causes your body to produce large amount of norepinephrine—a hormone / neurotransmitter produced in the adrenal glands and some regions of the brain.
Norepinephrine, related to adrenaline (epinephrine), is an essential, naturally occurring chemical in the body that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter (sends signals between nerve cells).
Norepinephrine is good business, pharmacologically targeted and farmed to treat depression and ADHD.
Increases in norepinephrine plays very important roles in the brain:
Clarity and Focus
These effects occur almost immediately. Ice bathing feels like "forced meditation" or "excruciating mindfulness".
If all of these mental benefits sound farfetched and you don’t have access to an ice bath, simply experiment with a cold shower.
Try to go all the way cold, turn the knob all the way and stay under for as long as you can. If you push beyond 1 to 2 minutes, it is hard to not experience some, if not all of the benefits listed above.
And that is from a cold shower, not full cold water immersion like an ice bath.
Furthermore, as far as effects of ice bathing and norepinephrine on muscle tissue:
Improves aerobic capacity
More mitochondria in muscle tissue means you can more effectively use oxygen
Helps recovery time
As a note, ice bathing right after workout may extinguish positive inflammation.
Pro tip: Wait at least one hour after exercise before taking an ice bath.
For a hassle free, full immersion ice bath, we recommend reviewing our BlueCube Ice Baths:
Hassle free: fill it up, plug it in, set temp, plunge.
Zero downtime: machine is always on ready for use
120 V plug, 10 Amp of energy, energy efficient and not noisy
Can handle back to back cold plunges without temperature variation
No chemicals: 20 micron filter and ozone
Full tub: easy to fully submerge
Can maintain 36-41°F, largest chilling motor on the market
Industry leading components: easy maintenance and serviceability
Bottom drain connects to garden hose: full control of water