Unless you are hiding under a strictly ‘no- social media’ rock, you may have come across the latest craze of ice baths for the ultimate body recovery and mind re-set. Whether it be a simple switch to a daily cold shower or visiting an ice bath facility, here at Novoa Health we are a big fans and here is why:


Cold water is a pretty cool gift from mother nature. In modern lifestyles many of us get trapped into a vicious spiral of chronic stress. We weren’t designed to operate in ‘fight or flight’ mode all the time, it is draining on both the body and mind and leads to hormonal imbalances. Chronic stress is a risk factor for so many lifestyle diseases from cancer to mental health disorders to cardiovascular disease. But controlled intentional exposure to an uncomfortable or stressful environment can build resilience. It can actually be used to our advantage to stimulate many healthy adaptations within both our body and mind. One key benefit is to help us switch out of fight of flight mode for a few minutes, hours or perhaps the rest of the day. There are many ways to help break the cycle of chronic stress, such as exercise and meditation but an ice bath visit can be the ultimate mental reset without taking up much of your time.


Cold exposure and calm breathing go hand in hand. Slowing down your breath can be your best friend during the initial moments of getting into the ice bath. The ice bath will teach you how to use your breath to remain calm and focused when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation that demands your full attention and presence in the moment.


Ice baths have long been used in top tier sports stadiums world-wide to help athletes manage inflammation post-competition. So if it is good enough for the fittest of all, then it is good enough for us!


More recently ice baths have been popularised by the likes of the iceman Wim Hof, whose method has been scientifically backed to help with anxiety/depression, boost the immune system, improve cardiovascular function, reduce allergies and inflammation. A scientific review article by Tipton et al (2017) has assessed the evidence base for the benefits of cold water immersion, which include upregulation of immune function, treatment of inflammation-related conditions, improved recovery post-exercise, pre-cooling the core temperature for improved athletic performance in hot weather, activation of brown-fat thermogenesis (non-shivering heat production). Those who practice ice baths regularly also do them for the mental reset it provides, as an ice bath demands your full attention, gives you no choice but to be present in the moment and connect with your breathing (slow long exhales are very helpful, avoid breathing fast and panicking as hyperventilating around any body of water – warm or cold – can be dangerous). Additional benefits which are not relevant in the context of our ice bath setting include prolonged underwater survival and deliberate cooling for oxygen conservation and treatment of hyperthermia. Most of the benefits of the ice bath occur within the first minute of entering, which is usually the most uncomfortable period, and roughly coincides with how long it takes for the blood flow to be diverted away from the arms and legs and towards the core to preserve core body temperature.