Let’s face it. For most of us, we dream of the opportunity to settle into a steamy hot tub, or rest and relax in a sultry sauna, but the very thought of plunging into an ice bath brings chills down our spines – literally! So how does this seemingly torturous practice actually enhance our fitness training and recovery? We’ve got all the details…
The History of Cold Therapy
Most people know of cold therapy for its localized application in pain management, usually administered as a cold compress or ice pack. The practice of using cold temperatures for therapeutic purposes dates back millennia, with documented use by the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks around the world. It is now having a resurgence as modern scientific studies prove cold therapy’s measurable benefits.
Many athletes use cold therapy as a staple of their recovery practice because it diminishes soreness and accelerates healing, but the benefits go beyond helping achy muscles. Cold exposure can also boost your immune system, elevate your mood, and increase mental clarity, making it uniquely suited to boxing and kickboxing training. Being a fighter is physically and mentally demanding, and cold therapy is a great tool for strengthening body and mind.
What Is Cold Exposure Therapy?
Cold exposure therapy is exactly as it sounds – intentional exposure to cold temperatures for therapeutic purposes. It is widely used by professional athletes to aid in recovery after intense training, but it is gaining popularity for anyone interested in its many benefits.
The advantages of cold immersion are far more complex than just simple muscle recovery. Therapeutic cold exposure is being credited as a must-try for total mind and body wellness.
Benefits of Cold Exposure Therapy
Reduced Muscle Soreness
One of the main reasons athletes love cold exposure therapy is because it reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and accelerates healing. Cold temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, minimizing the inflammation and swelling that leads to achiness.
Research suggests that cold exposure therapy helps strengthen your body’s immune system. Some studies have shown that cold exposure therapy resulted in improved immune responses when individuals were exposed to a bacterial infection. In general, the exact effects of cold exposure therapy on the immune system are unclear, but all of the cited benefits here contribute to an enhanced and stronger immune system.
Reduced Adipose Fat & Increased Metabolism
When the body is exposed to cold, it has to work harder to maintain its core temperature which requires your metabolism to rev up. Your body generates more heat as it burns through brown fat cells, called adipose fat. Over time, this extra calorie burn can even aid in weight loss.
It comes as no surprise that immersion in cold temperatures will feel like a bit of a shock (that’s an understatement!) which will initially increase your heart rate and breathing. As you focus on taking deep breaths to relax your system, you train yourself to focus and control your breathing, ultimately regulating it and guiding it back to a steady rhythm.
Improved Mood & Mental Clarity
Cold exposure might not feel great right away, but it has been shown to trigger your body’s production of dopamine and norepinephrine. Both of these neurotransmitters are responsible for mood regulation and focus, elevating both your mood and mental clarity.
Exposing The Coldness
Research is only adding validity to what many have known for centuries – cold exposure, although unpleasant at first, can do wonders for you. Boxers can benefit from cold therapy’s positive impact on both the body and the brain. While cold exposure for short time frames is relatively safe, it is always recommended to consult with your doctor before jumping into a full ice bath or booking a session in a cryochamber.
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