New research by the University of New Hampshire found that soaking in an ice bath after exercise may not be effective when it comes to preventing soreness or strength loss. The news may come as a shock to many in the athletic world as many athletes have made it a habit to go for a dip in a tub full of ice upon completing a workout. The study was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and reported that individuals who partake in cryotherapy, or ice baths, will not be any better off for decreased soreness or post-exercise strength loss.
"It doesn't help you feel better and it doesn't help you perform better," says lead researcher Naomi Crystal. "Ice baths are very popular as a treatment, but the research is really mixed as to whether they're beneficial. They're miserable. If it doesn't work, you don't want to waste your time."
There were 20 individuals who participated in the study, all of whom were recreationally active college-age men. The study required them to run downhill for 40 minutes at a grade of -10 percent. Once the exercise was over, 10 of the individuals took a 20-minute ice bath at 40 degrees Fahrenheit while the others skipped the tub.
The point of the study was to test the effectiveness of ice baths on soreness, strength, swelling and inflammation. According to the study, researchers measured the subjects' perceived soreness while walking down stairs, tested their quadriceps' strength on a resistance machine, measured thigh circumference and checked for the concentration of plasma in blood samples to determine if there was inflammation.
Results of the study
Once the results were tallied, researchers found no difference in strength or perceived soreness between those who took baths and the control group.
"The study suggested that there might have been a mild reduction in inflammation, but it wasn't conclusive," said UNH associate professor of kinesiology Dain LaRoche, a co-author of the study.
Researchers were expecting to see an improvement in soreness and strength with an ice bath, so they were surprised to find out what they did. Although the results were not something the researchers were expecting, they do think that using ice baths sparingly can be beneficial if an athlete has done something extraordinary like run a marathon. However, they do not think it provides any benefits for day-to-day athletes.
When plotting your weight loss plan, it may be a good idea to skip the ice baths on a daily basis.
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