It might sound crazy, but exposing your body to extreme cold for a short period of time is good for you. You may not want to think about it at first, but it significantly improves your well-being and health. Many athletes, runners, Biohackers etc. know this and already take daily ice baths to improve their health.

But do I have to immerse myself in an ice bath? Can’t I just take a cold shower? That’s certainly possible, taking a cold shower also has its advantages. However, there are some differences between an ice bath and a cold shower.

The biggest difference: Temperature

The biggest and most obvious difference between a cold shower and an ice bath is the temperature. In an ice tub or ice bath there is a cooling system. This system ensures that the water is at a constant cold temperature. This temperature starts at 4 degrees and can go up to 38 degrees. This is considerably colder than tap water. You can’t make the temperature colder in the shower.

How cold tap water is depends on the outside temperature and how deep it has to be extracted from the ground. According to our national water company Vitens, the average temperature is between 12 and 15 degrees. In summer the water is warmer than in winter. In an Icetub, you can get the temperature much lower.

Mindset

The colder the temperature, the more important your mindset is. Stepping into a cold ice bath will shock your body. Your body creates a natural escape response and you want to get out of the water as quickly as possible. It is important not to give in to this. It becomes bearable on its own. You can evoke this feeling by focusing on your breathing. Once you’re comfortable with the cold, a cold bath isn’t so bad.

Consider, for example, the Wim Hof method. We’ve all heard of it. With the help of his breathing exercises and meditation he influences the autonomic nervous system. He brings the body into an active state. With this method, he creates high levels of cortisol in the blood. This method by Wim Hof, combined with exposure to extreme cold, ensures that there are virtually no inflammatory proteins present in the body. This is one explanation why you feel better after a cold bath.
It is important to always listen to your body when taking an ice bath. Build it up slowly and you will find that you can handle the cold longer and longer. When you get over your escape reaction and realize you really want to get out, don’t stay put at all costs. You are training your body and next time you will probably be able to stay longer in an ice bath. A cold shower is a lot less cold and intense than an ice bath. It is easier to do and does not require any special breathing technique or mindset.

Full immersion

In a cold shower you step under cold water jets, in an ice bath you immerse yourself completely. A cold shower never completely immersed you in the cold. There are always parts of the body that are not completely covered by the cold. This makes it even more difficult to surrender to the cold.

When you immerse yourself completely in an ice bath, a layer of warm water forms around you. This warm layer is caused by your skin touching the water. This only happens when you sit still. Because when the water moves, this is not possible. Moving water in an ice bath will therefore be much more difficult to resist.

Training our vascular system

Our vascular system consists of all our blood vessels. The moment we take a cold shower or ice bath, this system is activated and trained. If you do this for 10 days, you’ll notice that your heart rate drops significantly. Up to 15 to 30 beats per minute. this stays that way for 24 hours and translates into less stress.

The difference between an ice bath and a cold shower 

  • The water temperature of an ice bath is colder than a shower. 
  • In an Icetub you can fully immerse yourself in cold water. The cold jets from the shower will repeatedly hit different parts of your body. When you’re fully immersed, it’s easier to get used to the cold.
  • A breathing technique is required when surrounding yourself in water below 10 degrees.
  • The health benefits of cold water will start at 15 degrees.

Shower or ice bath?

So if you just want to get some health benefits from cold therapy, a cold shower is fine. Thinking of the benefits for our vascular system. But if you are an athlete, biohacker or anyone else looking to get more out of cold therapy, you really need to step into an ice bath regularly to experience other benefits. Research has shown that immersion in water around 10 degrees has a positive effect.

Do you want to start with cold water training? In our blog ‘How to start with cold therapy’ we tell you everything you need to know.