The science might be mixed, but I’m sold.

“I’m literally so amazed at the ice bath every time. Like how every ache is just gone.”

I received that text from my friend Lindsey just as I was sitting down to write this piece. Lindsey is my ice bath bestie, and for the past four weeks we’ve subjected ourselves to six minutes of cold-water immersion, twice a week. Lindsey likes to listen to aggressive rap music for the duration, she says it helps her to relax. I suppose she is American.

Perhaps you’re reading this thinking, twelve minutes a week immersed in water at 8° Celsius? Are you mad? And to you I would say, possibly. But I’m also crediting it with reducing muscle soreness, improving my mood, and (an unexpected benefit) mending my broken heart.

As a Group Training Instructor who teaches five classes per week, plus trains weights and HIIT most days, I inflict a lot of stress on my body. Having a sore lower back from wall balls or heavy squats, tight calves from jumping, and shoulders that make my masseuse exclaim in horror are pretty much de rigueur.

Over the years, I’ve tried myriad ways to recover: rest days, foam rolling, cryotherapy, yin yoga, infra-red sauna, massage gun, acupressure mat… Basically, if it will make everything stop hurting, I’m in. So when my local gym installed an infrared sauna and ice bath, I thought: ‘What the hell, let’s give it a go’.

Before I dive into my experience, let’s look at the potential benefits of contrast therapy (alternating between heat and cold):


Cold-water therapy has many celebrity fans. LeBron James apparently loves ice baths so much he has a portable one he travels with. Naomi Osaka likes to immerse herself in cold water after tough matches for 15 minutes. Michael Phelps is such a proponent of the therapy that he’s formed a partnership with Master Spas to launch the Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tubs.

When we take an ice bath, our body experiences vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels. This reduces blood flow to areas that might be inflamed from exercise-induced muscle damage. As we warm up after the bath, the blood vessels dilate quickly, a process known as reactive hyperemia, which flushes out metabolic waste like lactic acid from the muscles.

Having gone down a VERY deep rabbit hole examining the science on the web, I can tell you the evidence is pretty mixed. A systematic review published in the Journal of Sports Medicine in January 2022 suggests it does offer benefits. In the study, people who used ice baths after high intensity exercise reported feeling better, with increased muscular power and reduced soreness.

Unfortunately, there's also evidence to suggest it may hamper your gains. A 2019 study in the Journal of Physiology highlights how ice baths decrease the generation of protein in muscles and are therefore not helpful for repairing and building muscle over time. The researchers explain that using ice baths to recover from resistance exercise reduces the capacity of the muscle to use dietary protein-derived amino acids, as well as lowering myofibrillar protein synthesis rates.

To ensure you’re not undoing the good work of your lifting session, Neuroscientist Dr Andrew Huberman, host of the popular Huberman Lab podcast, advises: “If you do ice baths on weight training days, wait 6-8 hours, or do them before training.”


Engaging regularly in cold water immersion may well boost the immune system. Research suggests this practice increases the number of white blood cells and other immune system cells that help fight off illness. One 2016 study found people who switched to cold showers for 30, 60, or 90 seconds for 90 days called in sick to work 29% less than people who didn’t switch to cold showers.


Improved circulation is another potential health benefit of ice baths. When exposed to cold, your blood is forced to circulate at a faster rate to maintain your body temperature. This increased cardiovascular circulation can improve heart health and skin health, aiding detoxification and promoting better oxygen supply to various parts of the body.


Fun fact, ice baths may help you lose weight! The body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature in cold water, which forces it to burn more calories. Additionally, exposure to cold can increase brown fat activity, which may protect against obesity. Unlike regular fat, brown fat is metabolically active and burns calories to generate heat. A 2014 study found that exposure to cold temperatures increased brown fat activity, leading to an increase in energy expenditure and fat burning.


Regular cold exposure from ice baths can also lead to better sleep. The lowering of body temperature before bedtime can mimic the natural drop in temperature that occurs during sleep, potentially making it easier to fall asleep. Furthermore, the stress reduction and muscle relaxation provided by an ice bath can help you get a better night’s sleep.


You know how great you feel after a workout because all the stress you've put your body through has triggered the release of endorphins? Well, contrast therapy does the same thing. The heat from the sauna promotes relaxation, and then the shock of the temperature in the ice bath causes adrenaline to flood our body, as well as deliver a hit of the reward chemical dopamine. In fact, a 2023 study found that 5 minutes immersion in a cold bath significantly improved the mood of the participants.


I won’t lie, the first few seconds are a shock. The owner of the ice bath, Adrien Rodriguez, advised us to control our breathing and take our time to fully immerse ourselves in the water. Lindsey and I channeled our inner Wim Hof as we went from 1-minute, to 2, and then finally the past week we've built up to 6 minutes. It's strangely meditative once you're in, and it does feel like a real achievement to make it to the 6-minute mark

I've noticed I'm generally less sore and I do feel more energized immediately following the bath. Perhaps the biggest effect has been on my mood. When we started doing the ice baths, I was feeling incredibly depressed having just emerged from an ill-advised situationship that pretty much broke my heart. I can't say whether it's been the heart-to-hearts with Lindsey during the infrared sauna (where she's reassured me that the pain won't last forever) or the effect of the cold water, but I walk out of the experience feeling reborn. Lindsey and I have got it down to an art where we do 20 minutes in the sauna, 6 minutes in the ice bath, and then warm up again in the sauna for another 10.

I'm going to keep up my ice bath regime. A few weeks ago the idea of getting into the cold water filled with me dread, but strangely now I look forward to it. As Lindsey said to me today: "The amazing feeling you have when you step out of the bath is worth it for that alone."