The idea of sitting in a bath of ice-cold water may not sound appealing, but this practice has become a hugely popular method of improving recovery, health, and mental well-being. The many benefits associated with ice baths mean that it isn’t just sports teams and athletes that are choosing to incorporate ice baths into their weekly routine. The number of people worldwide that are now using ice baths continues to grow and the current trend suggests that ice baths will only become more and more popular over time.

However, joining the masses in taking ice baths isn’t as simple as buying an ice bath and getting started. In order to get the most out of your cold water plunge, it is important you know how to take an ice bath safely, what type of ice bath you need to suit the space available to you and exactly what the health benefits of cold water immersion are, so that you fully understand why you are taking an ice bath and stay motivated to stick to whatever routine you undertake.

With this in mind, we have created this all-encompassing guide to cover everything you need to know about ice baths. After reading the guide you’ll no longer have questions like ‘are ice baths good for you?’, ‘how long should you stay in ice baths?’ or ‘are ice baths’ dangerous?’ as we cover those topics and lots more!

Why do people take ice baths?

Ice baths are a form of ‘cryotherapy’ which is the use of extremely cold temperatures for medical treatment or therapy. The cold water in an ice bath causes blood vessels to narrow which increases your heart and breathing rate as blood flow to the rest of the body is decreased.

This narrowing of the blood vessels reduces your body temperature which facilitates a lot of the physical and mental health benefits that will be experienced when taking an ice bath. Different people will use ice baths for different reasons as there are a wide range of benefits related to cold water immersion. Athletes will typically look at taking ice baths to aid their recovery in between training sessions which allows them to train regularly at a high intensity, whilst other people may use ice baths to improve their mood or ease joint pain.

man in an ice bath

What are the benefits of ice Baths?

As mentioned already there are many health benefits of an ice bath. Physiologists and scientists all over the world have carried out research that backs up several of the theories surrounding the different ice bath benefits. Below, we will go through all the physical and mental health benefits that have been associated with taking regular ice baths.

Reduced Muscle Soreness and Inflammation

Cold water therapy is thought to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after exercise. As a result of the cold temperatures narrowing the blood vessels that supply the muscles, the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that occurs post exercise will be less severe. Less blood flow around the body will reduce inflammation of the muscles after a workout. This will help athletes recover quicker as they will be in less discomfort after exercise, meaning they can increase the frequency and intensity of their training sessions, which will lead to them improving their performance at a faster rate.

An analysis carried out by Bleakley and his colleagues and a study carried out in 2008 on elite rugby players, found that ice baths have a moderate effect on muscle soreness - or "DOMS" - Delay Onset of Muscle Soreness. However, the consensus within scientific circles is that despite this evidence supporting a reduction in muscle inflammation, more in-depth and larger studies are required to fully support this theory.

Improved Recovery

As mentioned previously, ice baths are thought to accelerate recovery. Following the body’s temperature decreasing in ice cold water, when the body returns to its normal temperature blood flow and circulation increase which helps flush away waste products from the muscle cells.

This is supported by research in 2020 at the University of Central Lancashire. They found that submerging your body in 50° F -59° F water for 10 min – 15 min will ‘improve acute and subsequent day recovery in exercise performance and wellbeing and may be a useful recovery tool during periods of intensified training or competition’.

Mood and Feelings of Wellbeing

Cold water immersion is well known to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. The cold temperatures will increase the brain sensitivity which will increase the production of ‘endorphins’, which are chemicals that enhance mood and wellbeing.

A study in 2008 and research conducted in Malaysia found that cold water swimming produced a positive effect on mental health, decreasing both depression and anxiety.

Cold water therapy also facilitates the production of the hormone ‘norepinephrine’ that increases your focus and energy. A study in 1977 from D.G Johnson found that immersion in cold water for just two minutes increased the concentration of norepinephrine in blood plasma.

The ‘feel good hormone’, commonly known as dopamine, is thought to be produced more readily after taking an ice bath. Dopamine is called the feel-good hormone as it improves mood and makes people generally feel better about themselves. Studies published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2000 have shown that ice baths can increase dopamine levels by approximately 250% for several hours.

All evidence is clear that cold water therapy positively impacts mental health. Mental health organizations and charities all over the world host regular cold-water swims that anyone can participate in, which backs up this theory.

ice bath

Improved Sleep

The quality of an individual’s sleep can be improved by cold water immersion. The reduction in body temperature appears to help people stay in a deep sleep for longer and wake up less during the night. A study carried in 2021, concluded that whole body cold water immersion after aerobic exercise improved sleep quality during the first part of the night. However, it isn’t recommended to take an ice bath before you go to sleep. Exposure to cold water raises alertness, so settling into a sleep may prove to be much more difficult.

Enhanced Immune System

Various physiologists have investigated the effects of cold-water therapy on the immune system. However, the outcomes of this research aren’t clear.

A study in 1999 looked at the effects of open water swimming during the winter months on the immune system. They found a 40% decrease in colds and respiratory infections in people who partook in the swimming compared to those who didn’t. However, research surrounding ice baths is limited, so it is unclear whether it is the exercise that enhances the immune system or the cold water. It is also thought that cold temperatures increase the concentration of ‘glutathione’ in the blood, which plays a vital role in the immune system.

Weight Loss

Cold water immersion is rumored to help individuals lose weight. The exposure to the cold increases what is known as ‘brown fat’ in the body. This type of fat contains more ‘mitochondria’, which produce energy and increase metabolic activity, helping to burn more calories daily which could lead to weight loss.

Perceived Effort

If you follow a regular ice bath routine, over time you may notice that when you exercise, you aren’t having to put in as much effort or exert yourself as much as you used to. A study from 2007 supported this theory, attributing this to the lower temperature of the muscles if you have an ice bath a certain amount of time before or after a workout.

Enhanced Endurance

Scientific research has shown that exposure to cold will improve endurance levels. A study in 2018 found that cold water exposure enhances the function of a ‘‘PGC-1α gene expression’’, which improves a muscle’s ability to utilize oxygen and in turn improves endurance by enhancing muscle adaptations to aerobic exercise. The decrease in muscle inflammation and overall recovery time post exercise allows athletes to train more regularly. Cold water immersion is also thought to increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells. More mitochondria mean more energy is produced in the muscle cells, which will further enhance endurance as the individual will have the energy to train more frequently.

Blood Pressure

If you suffer from high blood pressure and wish to begin an ice bath routine, it is vitally important to consult a medical professional before you begin. The cold temperatures will lead to a sharp increase in blood pressure in the short term which could be dangerous for someone who already has high blood pressure. However, in the long term, the increased amount of brown fat that is produced from submerging yourself in cold water, can lead to lower blood pressure. Studies have shown blood pressure is one of many cardiovascular benefits associated with higher levels of brown fat.

Body and Joint Pain

If you are looking to use ice baths but have been diagnosed with a rheumatological condition such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, you must consult with a medical professional whether it is safe for you to do so. Whilst ice baths can reduce inflammation and temporarily alleviate the pain that comes with these conditions, this response can be mixed dependant on the type of joint pain and the individual. More conclusive evidence is required to fully establish the full benefits of cold-water therapy for people with rheumatological conditions.

lady in an ice bath

Are ice baths dangerous?

Ice baths are largely safe to use as long as they are used properly. Naturally there are some risks that are associated with submerging your body in ice cold water. Knowing these ice bath dangers can help you thoroughly prepare prior to your dip and limit any potential risks. In this section we’ll go through everything you need to watch out for when taking an ice bath.


One of the main dangers of ice baths is hyperventilation. This is a normal response to extreme changes in environmental conditions such as submerging yourself in ice-cold water. If you begin to experience hyperventilation you will start to breathe rapidly, and your blood carbon dioxide levels will decrease. The body will then react in one or more of the following ways.

  • Dizziness
  • Tingling lips
  • Tingling hands or feet
  • Headache
  • Weakness or fainting
  • Seizures

If you start to feel any of these symptoms, then you should immediately get out of the ice bath and take steps to warming yourself back up to normal body temperature so that your breathing and blood carbon dioxide levels return back to normal. When you first start using ice baths it is important to use warmer temperatures to begin with and gradually over time make the water colder as you get used to the cold temperatures.

Gasp Reflex

When you come into contact with cold water for the first time the majority of people will involuntarily take a deep breath in, out of shock. This is what is known as your ‘gasp reflex’.

This only becomes a risk if you submerge yourself into the water, including your head, too quickly. If your gasp reflex kicks in whilst your head is under the water, you could swallow a significant amount of ice cold water which could cause a variety of problems.


If you don’t take an ice bath safely and for example, take an ice bath too quickly after exercising, the risk of drowning is significantly increased. If you drop into cold water straight after an intense workout or if your body is hot due to the weather, your body might not be ready for the ice-cold temperatures and may go into cold water shock. In extreme cases, cold water shock can cause the body to shut down. Cold water shock can also happen if someone stays in the ice bath for too long and ends up experiencing hyperventilation symptoms that are beyond their control. Once the body shuts down you could end up being fully submerged underwater which in some cases can lead to drowning.

To prevent this from happening, only stay in the ice bath for the recommended length of time, which we will set out later in this guide. Also avoid taking ice baths immediately after exercise when your body temperature is still high and allow time for yourself to cool down first.


Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature falls below 95°F due to cold temperatures and the body is not able to produce enough heat to maintain it’s temperature.

This will most likely occur when you stay in ice baths for too long which leads to your body temperature continuing to drop. In the most severe cases, organs such as your heart won’t be able to function normally, which can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system.

Shivering, shallow slow breathing, a weak pulse, and loss of consciousness are some of the most noticeable symptoms of hypothermia. If you begin to experience any of these symptoms whilst in an ice bath you must get out of the ice bath immediately if you can and take steps to warming up your body back to normal temperature, which is 98.6°F. If the symptoms don’t improve or if they get worse then you may have to call 911.

black ice bath

How to take an ice bath

Whilst the idea of taking an ice bath may seem straightforward, it isn’t as simple as just getting into a tub full of ice water. Prior to getting started you need to understand the ice bath dos and don’ts to ensure you can enjoy an ice bath safely.

In this section we will cover how long to ice bath for, the ideal ice bath temperature, how many ice baths a week you should have, when is the best time to take an ice bath, how far you need to submerge yourself into the ice bath and what you should do immediately after your ice bath. After reading this section you will fully understand how to take an ice bath safely and be able to plan when you are going to take your ice baths so you can enjoy all of the benefits they have to offer.

How cold should an ice bath be?

Having the right ice bath temperature is vitally important for experiencing the full benefits of cold-water immersion. Your water needs to be cold enough for the vasoconstriction of your blood vessels to occur. With that said, you don’t want your ice bath to be too cold (especially if you are new to cold water immersion) as you need to become accustomed gradually to the cold temperatures over time, so that you don’t put yourself at risk of hypothermia or hyperventilation.

The recommended temperature for an ice bath is between 50°F and 59°F as this temperature will cause the blood vessels to vasoconstrict and allow the hormones beneficial to mental health to be produced more readily. If you are starting out and are new to ice baths, start more towards 59°F and slowly work your way down to 50°F as you become used to the cold temperatures.

The best way to reach the recommended temperatures mentioned is by using a 3 to 1 ratio of water to ice cubes in your ice bath. The temperature can be altered very easily by either adding more ice or slightly warmer water to your bath. Measuring the temperature is very easy (and an important safety measure), just simply place a thermometer in the water and take a reading.

How long should you stay in an ice bath for?

Specialists recommended that you should aim to sit in a 50°F - 59°F ice bath for between 10-15 minutes to provide the best results. If you wish to have an ice bath colder than 50°F then you should reduce the duration of your ice bath, to prevent the risk of hypothermia. To begin with we would recommend taking shorter ice baths and gradually increase the length of your immersion time as you become used to the cold temperatures. Once you are accustomed to taking ice baths, use our table below to find the recommended immersion time for each water temperature.

Recommended Ice Bath Durations & Temperatures*
Ice Bath Temperature (°F) Ice Bath Temperature (°C) Recommended Immersion Time (Minutes)
33.8 1 1
35.6 2 2
37.4 3 3
39.2 4 4
41 5 5
42.8 6 6
44.6 7 7
46.4 8 8
48.2 9 9
50 10 10
51.8 11 11
53.6 12 12
55.4 13 13
57.2 14 14
59 15 15

*Always check with your doctor before using an ice bath and carry out your first ice bath with supervision

How far should you submerge your body into the ice bath?

Most people will sit in the ice bath and submerge every part of their body below the head and neck into the water level. This will quickly drop the body temperature to the level where vasoconstriction of the blood vessels begins to happen, and the user begins to benefit from the cold temperatures.

If you are new to taking ice baths and aren’t comfortable with the ice-cold temperatures, begin by slowly submerging yourself into the water, to allow yourself the opportunity to adjust to the temperatures. You can also start off by keeping your chest above the water level for your first couple of baths, keeping vital organs such as your heart out of the water which prevents your body temperature dropping quickly. This reduces the potential risk of cold water shock and hyperventilation during your first ice baths.

How many ice baths should you have a week?

There is no set amount of ice baths that you can have a week and you can have as few or as little as you like, but most experts will recommend between two to three ice baths a week as well as cold showers, in order to see both physical and mental health benefits. Some professional athletes take as many as five ice baths a week, depending on their training programs.

When should you take an ice bath?

The health benefits you are targeting will largely determine when you should take your ice baths. A popular time to take an ice bath is first thing in the morning as soon as you wake up. This helps you experience a lot of the mental health benefits associated with ice baths. All the feel-good hormones will be released, focusing you and making you feel energized for the day ahead.

lady in an ice bath robe

If you are looking to improve your recovery and reduce muscle soreness after exercise, it is recommended to take your ice bath 30-60 minutes after you have worked out. Two hours post workout has also been suggested and proven to still aid muscle recovery. However, for most people with busy lives, waiting two hours after exercise to use an ice bath isn’t practical and won’t fit into their schedule.

Ice baths are also popular with those who have just suffered a muscle injury. The cold temperatures will help reduce inflammation around the injured area, which will help begin the healing process and potentially help lift the mood if the person is feeling down about their injury. The sooner you use an ice bath after suffering an injury the sooner the ice bath can start the healing process.

Should you take an ice bath before or after a workout?

There are no concrete recommendations as to whether you should take an ice bath before or after a workout. This again will be determined by the health benefits you are specifically looking to target.

If taking an ice bath before a workout, it is recommended to not take an ice bath immediately before exercise and instead leave enough time in between your ice bath and workout for your body to warm up slightly again. Whilst the release of hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine will put you in a good mindset for your workout, having a low muscle temperature can inhibit your performance and increase your risk of injury. You should either leave enough time in between your ice bath and exercise, or wait 30-60 mins after your workout, depending on what you’re looking to achieve from your ice bath routine.

Taking your ice bath a set amount of time before exercise will cause a cooling of the body before exercise which reduces perceived effort and exertion, which means you can push yourself further without feeling as tired due to the cooler muscle temperature. Alternatively, taking your ice bath after exercise will help reduce inflammation, muscle soreness and aid your recovery process. Bodybuilders and those looking to build muscle mass however, should wait at least 2 hours after a workout to have an ice bath; as taking one immediately after a workout can reduce protein synthesis and muscle growth.

What should you do after an ice bath?

When you decide to get out of your ice bath it is important that you immediately wrap yourself up in a towel and dry yourself off because you will still be soaked in ice water even though you are out of the bath and your body temperature could continue to drop.

Whilst more concrete research is needed, it is believed that you should try to wait for up to two hours before jumping into a warm shower after an ice bath, as it allows the body to fully experience the benefits of the cold therapy. Showering too soon may counteract the effects of the cold temperatures and be less beneficial for recovery. Whilst this wait time may not be practical for some people, trying to hold off taking a warm shower for as long as you can.

ice bath lid

Ice Bath Types

Now we’ve gone through everything you need to know about how to safely take an ice bath, we will now cover all the different types of ice bath available to you and their unique benefits to make your decision much easier when it comes to buying an ice bath. The ice bath you need will largely depend on the space available to you and how regularly you plan to use the ice bath.

Regular Bathtubs

Some ice baths can be quite expensive and take up a lot of space. If buying an ice bath isn’t practical and you aren’t looking to use it that often, a regular bathtub is a cheap and easy substitute if you have one available to you. However, most baths aren’t deep enough to submerge yourself from the top of your shoulders downwards. If you do wish to get into a regular ice bath routine, we would recommend buying a specialist ice bath as you will have to empty and refill a normal bathtub after every use whereas ice baths only require cleaning and a change of water every so often. Bathtubs also don’t have the same level of insulation as ice baths which means that water temperatures can’t be maintained as easily.

Permanent Ice Baths

Permanent ice baths are non-collapsible structures such as an ice barrel or a specialist bath that require their own space outdoors or in a wet room. Whilst they are the most expensive option, they are more suited to those looking to take up a regular ice bath routine. Specialist baths and barrels are made to be deep enough so a user can fully submerge their entire body. However, these structures require a permanent space and can’t easily be stored which isn’t possible for certain people, making this an impractical option for many.

Collapsible/Inflatable Ice Baths

Collapsible and inflatable ice baths are the best option for the majority of people. Whilst they still require space outdoors or a wet room to be set up, they can easily be taken down and stored away without taking up much space. This makes collapsible and inflatable ice baths suitable for those who are looking to regularly ice bath and allows those who sporadically take ice baths to use theirs as and when they like and then store away when not in use.

At Net World Sports, our fully portable and collapsible ACESO ice bath is perfect for any cold water immersion routine. The bath contains a triple-layered construction that offers the best thermal efficiency to maintain water temperatures. Simply insert the six support poles into the external layer of the bath and inflate the outer ring to set up your ice bath in no time at all. Our ice baths come equipped with thermal lids, an all-weather cover, carry bag, pump and repair kit, ensuring you have everything you need for a cold water immersion routine.

How do you keep your ice bath water clean?

The key to maintaining your ice bath and getting the best out of each plunge is ensuring the water is always clean. This will keep your ice bath hygienic and make your cold-water immersion experience as comfortable as it can be. Below we’ll look at how to keep your ice bath clean and ensure it remains in prime condition.

tap on an ice bath

Change the water

It is recommended that you change the water in your ice bath every four weeks to keep the water fresh from any bacteria that may form inside the bathtub. This should be no problem if you are regularly packing your ice bath away after use, as you will need to empty the water out of the bath and then refill it each time. If you have a permanent ice bath or don’t pack away your inflatable/collapsible ice bath after use, you will need to ensure you follow this guidance on changing the water.

Shower before your ice bath

Taking a quick shower before getting into your ice bath will ensure your body is clean and helps to prevent dirt, debris or perspiration being transferred from your body into the water. Showering beforehand will help keep the water clean, meaning you shouldn’t have to change the water as regularly and ultimately give you a more enjoyable ice bath experience.

Wear shoes before your ice bath

As you are walking over to your ice bath for use, wearing shoes or flip flops will keep the bottom of your feet clean before you get into the water and will help with the cleanliness of the water. Once you are ready to get into the ice bath, you can remove your shoes and leave them next to the bath ready for when you get out.

Cover your ice bath

Regardless of whether your ice bath is set up indoors or outdoors, ensuring you have a cover over your ice bath when it is not in use will prevent anything from dirt, rainwater, insects and leaves from getting into your ice bath. This will keep your ice bath water cleaner for longer and will stop you from having to change the water after every use.

Clean the ice bath

Whenever you empty the water out of you ice bath, it is recommended that you give the tub a quick rinse to remove dirt from inside the ice bath. Then every two to three months you should give the interior and exterior of your ice bath a deep clean. This will help to maintain the quality of the ice bath and ensure you maximize the ice baths lifespan.

Now you have read our full ice bath beginners guide, why not check out our ACESO Portable Ice Bath and full range of muscle recovery equipment on our website!

At Net World Sports we carry a wide variety of high-quality gym equipment, including muscle recovery equipment to help you recuperate after exercise. We have everything from ice baths to foam rollers, and massage balls to help give your muscles the best chance to recover in the quickest possible time.