Balancing fatigue and muscle soreness with exercise performance is challenging, and athletes are often looking for ways to recovery faster between training sessions and competition. Cold-water immersion has been found to be one of the most effective recovery strategies amongst athletes. During cold-water immersion there is an increase in hydrostatic pressure and/or a reduction in body tissue temperature. As a result there is reduced peripheral blood flow, reduced post-exercise fluid retention, and increased metabolic activity which accelerates the recovery process by reducing muscle damage, swelling and inflammation, muscle spasm, pain and thermal strain.
Cold-water immersion has been found to be effective for the following:-
# improving muscle power 24 hours after eccentric exercise and high-intensity exercise
# reducing delayed onset muscle soreness 24 hours after high-intensity exercise
# increasing feelings of perceived recovery 24 hours after high-intensity exercise
# reducing circulating Creatine Kinase 24 hours after high-intensity exercise
The optimum cold-water immersion protocol of 11-15°C for 11-15 minutes has found to be most effective. Overall, the use of cold-water immersion has shown to positively influence the recovery of physiological, perceptual and performance outcomes, particularly following high-intensity exercise.
Moore, E. et al. (2022). Impact of cold-water immersion compared with passive recovery following a single bout of strenuous exercise on athletic performance in physically active participants: A systematic review with meta-analysis and meta-regression. Sports Medicine. 52: 1667-1688.