Ice Baths vs. Cryotherapy: The Best Cold Therapy

Over the last few years, more and more of my friends have installed ice baths (often converted deep freezes) in their homes and yards. Cold water exposure has numerous benefits – mental and physical– and biohackers are using it to improve their health and wellbeing.

Cold causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to the affected area and reducing pain and swelling. It also increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and organs, speeding up the healing process.

Cryotherapy, ice baths, and cold showers all involve the use of cold temperatures to achieve their therapeutic effects, but they have some key differences that make them suitable for different individuals and conditions.

Whole-body cryotherapy
This treatment method that involves standing in a chamber that is cooled to extremely low temperatures, typically between -120 to -160 °C, for a short period of time, usually between 2-8 minutes. This form of cold therapy is believed to provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Reducing inflammation: Cryotherapy is thought to reduce inflammation in the body by constricting blood vessels and decreasing blood flow to the affected area. This can help to reduce pain and swelling, making it easier to move around and exercise.
  • Improving circulation: Cryotherapy is thought to improve circulation by increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and organs. This can help to speed up the healing process and improve overall health and wellness.
  • Boosting the immune system: Cryotherapy is believed to boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells, which help to fight off infection and disease.
  • Enhancing athletic performance: Many athletes use cryotherapy to help speed up recovery from training and reduce muscle soreness, which enables them to perform better.

Ice baths
Popularized by Wim Hof, ice baths are now popping up in backyards across wellness-focused cities like LA and Austin. This method involves immersing the body in a bath of ice water for 1-15 minutes. Like cryotherapy, ice baths can help to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, but they may also have additional benefits such as:

  • Improving cardiovascular health: Cold water immersion has been shown to increase blood flow to the heart and reduce blood pressure, which may help to improve overall cardiovascular health.
  • Reducing muscle soreness: Cold water immersion is known to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after a workout.
  • Mental Discipline: It takes incredible willpower to stay submerged in an ice bath longer than a minute. Staying in improves your mind control & discipline.

Cold Showers & Shivering
The cheapest and most readily available method, cold showers are best done in intervals, showering in cold water for 1-3 minutes, then standing without drying off until the body starts to shiver. This is then repeated a couple times. As well as the other benefits listed above, shivering may have additional health benefits:

  • Burn calories and boost metabolism: The body burns calories to generate heat when we shiver, which can help to increase weight loss and improve overall health.
  • Improve cardiovascular health: The body’s response to cold temperatures causes blood vessels to constrict, which can help to increase blood flow and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Endorphins: Shivering also triggers the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. This can help to reduce pain and improve mood.
  • It’s important to note that before trying either of these methods, it’s always recommended to seek the advice of a healthcare professional, as they may have contraindications or could cause harm if not used properly.

Whole-body cryotherapy, ice baths, and cold showers can provide a number of health and wellness benefits, but they differ in terms of the method of application, temperature and the time spent in the cold. While cryotherapy offers a more convenient and less time-consuming way of achieving the benefits, ice baths are less expensive, and showers are entirely free. The best choice for an individual will depend on their specific needs, preferences, and budget.

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