Cold-water therapy may help athletes recover faster

By Tom Nordlie • Published: December 8th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Cold showers are sometimes recommended to help people recover from intoxication or romantic fervor.

And those folk remedies probably don’t work.

But now there’s evidence that chilly water really can fight fatigue.

According to a study published recently in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, endurance athletes recovered faster when they climbed into a bracing bath after training.

Twelve competitive male cyclists participated in the study.

They completed four trials. In each one, they rode for almost two hours a day, five days in a row.

Each trial involved a different recovery regimen, which lasted fourteen minutes each day.

They included hot water immersion, cold water immersion, alternating hot and cold immersion, and simply resting.

The results showed cyclists performed best with the cold water or alternating hot and cold regimens.

They were able to maintain or slightly improve their average pedaling power throughout those trials.

When cyclists used hot-water immersion or simply rested, their average power gradually decreased.

Interestingly, the cyclists’ heart rates and their perceived exertion during the workouts were about the same, regardless of the recovery regimen.

The researchers aren’t sure why cold water improved recovery.

But cold-water immersion has been shown to reduce core and tissue temperature, decrease heart rate and cardiac output, and reduce swelling.

So if you’re a weekend athlete, next time a competition’s coming up you might want to consider using cold water in the shower after your workouts.

It could help.

And if nothing else, it’ll lower your utility bill.