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What’s up with these ice baths?

You probably got annoyed at the subject line of this week’s blog post. I know what it looks like… “dear goodness, Amy’s trying to get us to hop on this psycho bandwagon and dip in a bucket of ice.”

Partially true. It may seem like a crazy bandwagon, but I gotta say…between experiencing them myself and researching the studies proving the benefits…cold exposure ain’t actually a new phenomenon, it’s just newer to the general public. There is so much data showing that ice baths sincerely lower stress levels, improve mood, metabolism, and energy for people who incorporate them into their routine.

In trying to keep this short and basic, I’ll let you know that research shows routine ice baths do the following: 

  • Activates the sympathetic nervous system, which then activates the brown fat in your body. This is good – brown fat is the good kind of fat in your body. It surrounds your heart and other organs, heats up your body, stores energy and helps burn calories.
  • Gives you an Immediate mood boost following. I can attest to this. You hate the during, but afterwards the endorphins give you a somewhat “euphoric” feeling. I’ve taken an ice bath before just because I was in a bad mood. 😂
  • Reduces inflammation. Side note: if you strength train, you should wait several hours to take an ice bath after a lifting session because it can impede muscle growth during that immediate window afterwards. It’s best to take an ice bath before any training session, right after cardio/endurance workouts, or 6 hours post strength sessions.
  • Over time, consistent ice baths can lead to improved metabolism, better insulin sensitivity (this is good, too much of insensitivity is type 2 diabetes), lower blood pressure, and lower your resting heart rate.  

I won’t exactly call this an enjoyable experience. Good news is, they don’t need to be long to reap the benefits. And you don’t even have to obsess over the temperature of the water like a lot of people do. Really, just make sure the water is cold enough to give your body that “shock” sensation so it activates the sympathetic nervous system like it’s supposed to. Research shows that it’s best to take 2-5 minute cold plunges at a time, and do a total of about 11 minutes per week for optimal health results.

In short, ice baths won’t replace other good things like working out or good sleep and nutrition. It’s also not a make or break situation. But they sure can help. There’s no more denying that, even if we hate the idea of them. Take that for what you will and carry on!

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