Take the Plunge! Ice Baths at ICE

September 18, 2023

Ice baths have been all the hype at ICE Headquarters recently, so we sat down with Wellness Director Ishaan Vasudeva to get the inside scoop!

About Cold Water Therapy & How it Works

Exposing your body to cold water causes the blood vessels in submerged areas to narrow (vasoconstriction), directing blood to your organs. The water exerts pressure  (hydrostatic pressure) on the body, which promotes blood flow to major organs like the heart, brain, and lungs, increasing the oxygen and nutrient supply in your blood. As soon as you emerge from the cold water, those same blood vessels expand (vasodilation), pumping the oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood back to your tissues, removing waste products such as lactic acid, and lowering inflammation.

Benefits of Cold Water Therapy

Reduces Inflammation and Swelling

When you take an ice bath, the cold temperature narrows your blood vessels (vasoconstriction), which decreases the blood flow to your muscles and, therefore, may reduce inflammation and swelling. Research also suggests that cold water therapy may reduce post-exercise inflammation better than other methods like compression socks. It is best to complete an ice bath before your workout so the cold shock proteins (amino acids) return to the tissues needing repair. It’s ideal for muscle tissues to receive as much blood and oxygen as possible after they’ve been heavily stressed.

Reduces Stress and Improves Mental Health

Research reveals that submerging your body in cold water increases dopamine (“feel good” hormone) concentrations by 250% . The research suggests that people who participate in regular ice baths experience less stress, anxiety, and depression. When your body is exposed to cold water, norepinephrine (an anti-stress hormone/neurotransmitter) and adrenaline are released, which can improve your mood and help you adapt to stress.

Cold immersions stimulate the Vagus nerve, which lowers the heart rate and reduces stress hormones in the body. Cold water therapy also increases the production of mood-elevating hormones and neurotransmitters, which boosts the Central Nervous System’s (CNS) capacity and functionality and balances your circadian rhythm, which promotes better sleep.

Boosts the Immune System and Lymphatic Movement

Research demonstrates that cold water exposure produces a strong anti-inflammatory response, helping the body to fight infections. Studies have shown that people who participate in cold water therapy produce higher white cell blood counts than those who do not. Medical experts suggest that white blood cells, which fight infections, circulate in the body faster when exposed to colder temperatures, enhancing the body’s antibody and T-cell response.

Cold exposure also has a positive effect on lymphatic circulation. When exposed to cold water, your lymph vessels contract, moving lymph fluid through your system, flushing out the waste, and stimulating the immune system.

Improves Lung Function

Research reveals that lung function can be remarkably improved through cold water therapy. Though the feeling of breathlessness— a common occurrence during those initial moments of a cold water immersion— can feel uncomfortable, it means the lungs are working harder to regulate the nervous system. This, in turn, leads to an improvement in lung function when we take a dip in the cold water. Less CO2 = More O2

Improves Liver Function

Studies have shown that cold water exposure can help improve liver function and protect it against damage. The cold water exposure increases blood flow to the liver, which can help stimulate the production of enzymes that are essential for liver function. This improved blood flow also helps to flush out liver toxins and waste products, allowing it to function more efficiently.

Increases Energy and Oxygen Levels

Through a process called cold thermogenesis, cold water exposure stimulates the nerve endings in the skin, which increases oxygen levels, heart rate, and respiration rate. The nominal shock from cold exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), stimulating cognitive abilities and increasing focus, concentration, and alertness. This leads to increased energy levels, alertness, and better overall cardiac function.

Promotes Weight Loss

Taking an ice bath can activate the brown fat in your body, causing the hormones Irisin and FGF to be released, burning fat tissues and leading to weight loss. The brown fat burns to keep you alive, so your body will convert white fat into brown fat to burn again next time. Brown fat burns quickly whereas white fat tends to be more stubborn. Diet changes can help this occur, but the effect will slow as the body adjusts to a new caloric intake.

Cold immersion can also trigger weight loss through shivering, which produces heat and burns calories. In addition, short-period cold water immersions (up to 5 minutes) have been shown to increase the metabolism rate.

Prevents Degeneration and Aging

As we age, our blood acidity increases which can lead to health problems and inefficiencies in transporting energy and oxygen to the cells. Cold water therapy can increase your blood pH level, which keeps oxygen levels higher in our blood vessels, arteries, and cells, aiding in preventing degeneration and aging.

Tips for taking an ice bath

Ready to take the plunge? Here’s a few things you should know:


The temperature of an ice bath should ideally be “uncomfortably cold,” between 40-50° Fahrenheit. 

Time Limit

Spending too much time in an ice bath can have adverse consequences. Start out slow and work your way up, limiting your exposure time up to 10-15 minutes once experienced. If you’re just starting out, aim for 5 minutes or less.

Ice Bath At Home

If you decide to take an ice bath at home, use a thermometer to help you achieve the ideal temperature. If the temperature is too high, add ice gradually, and if it’s too low, gradually add warmer water until desired temperature is achieved.

Timing of Ice Bath

To reap the most benefits of cold water exposure, taking the plunge early in the day or immediately before a workout is best.

For more information about ice baths, or to schedule a time to take the plunge (ICE Headquarters only), please reach out to Wellness Director, Ishaan Vasudeva


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