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Why Athletes Take Ice Baths

The Risks and Benefits of Taking a Post-Workout Ice Bath

If you've been following the Olympic athletes on social media (like we have — check out our favorite Instagram and Twitter pictures from Team USA's athletes!), you'll know that one of the most popular ways they've been recovering after their events is by taking an ice bath. From Olympians to marathoners, many athletes use ice baths to help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, but are they really worth the plunge?

A 2008 Runner's World article called ice baths "one of the most effective ways to offset damage done on a run," saying cold-water submersion helps suppress inflammation and flushes out muscles because the cold temperatures help constrict blood cells and decrease metabolic activity.

More recently, researchers looked at results from over 17 studies and found that ice bathing reduced muscle soreness by 20 percent compared to doing nothing at all. But even with the small benefit, critics say the ice-bath method needs to be tested against active therapy like using compressions products or taking Advil to see if it's worth filling your tub with ice. And since ice baths can lead to shock or increased heart rate, some scientists say that there still needs to be more research on the long-term safety effects of ice baths.

I've never taken an ice bath after a workout, although I've been in more than one spa with a cold water plunge pool (which, similarly, is supposed to help with your body's circulation and alleviate pain). Are you a fan of ice baths? Let us know if they've helped you recover!

Sources: Twitter User @LashindaDemus, Instagram User kerrileewalsh, and Instagram User mckaylamaroney

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