Scientific Research

The science behind cold water therapy

ICE BATH:‎‏‏‎ the science behind

Ice baths, also known as cold water immersion therapy, have been a popular practice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts for many years. This technique involves immersing oneself in cold water for a period of time, typically between 5-15 minutes, in order to reduce inflammation and aid in muscle recovery.

But what does the science say about the benefits of ice baths? Numerous studies have explored the effects of cold water immersion therapy on the human body, ranging from the immediate effects on muscle soreness and fatigue to the long-term impacts on immune function and overall health.

In this page, we will highlight several scientific research studies on ice baths and their benefits. From reducing inflammation and improving circulation to enhancing athletic performance and boosting mental health, these studies shed light on the many ways in which cold water immersion therapy can positively impact our bodies and minds.

The science of ice baths, brown fat and metabolism | Susanna Soeberg, PhD |

In this three-hour deep dive into cold water immersion, Dr. Susanna SĂžberg, an internationally leading expert on cold and heat as a stress management tool for physical and mental health, answers questions about the safety and benefits of cold water exposure.

The Proof with Simon Hill, hosted by Simon Hill, who holds a Masters in Nutrition Science and a Bachelor of Science, the podcast explores the science behind the claims about cold water exposure and how to safely implement hot and cold exposure into your life.

Dr. SĂžberg completed her PhD in metabolism and cold water exposure at The University of Copenhagen, contributing to a deeper understanding of our metabolism and its intersection with our central nervous system. She is the founder of the Soeberg Institute and communicates her knowledge via her online programs, books, social media, podcasts, talks, and workshops.

Cold exposure protects from neuroinflammation through immunologic reprogramming

This study shows that cold exposure reduces the symptoms of autoimmune disease by suppressing T cell activity through the modulation of monocytes. The study suggests that cold-induced metabolic adaptations may compete with autoimmunity as an energetic trade-off that can benefit immune-mediated diseases.


Maintaining a healthy immune system requires significant energy, which can be affected by environmental factors. Autoimmunity, which is a high-energy-demanding process, can compete with other biological programs, resulting in a milder immune response. This study investigated the effect of cold exposure on autoimmune disease and found that it reduced the immune response and attenuated multiple sclerosis in an animal model. This suggests that there is a competition between the thermogenic response to cold exposure and autoimmunity, which could have therapeutic implications for autoimmune-mediated or infectious diseases.


In conclusion, the impact of a metabolically active state on immunity and immune-mediated diseases is unclear, but recent research suggests that there may be a beneficial trade-off between cold-induced metabolic adaptations and autoimmunity. This is supported by the findings that cold exposure ameliorates active experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) by suppressing T cell priming and pathogenicity through the modulation of monocytes. The study provides a mechanistic link between environmental temperature and neuroinflammation, suggesting that competition between cold-induced metabolic adaptations and autoimmunity is energetically costly but beneficial for immune-mediated diseases. These findings may have important implications for the management of autoimmune diseases and highlight the need for further research in this area.

Cold Water Swimming—Benefits and Risks

Cold water swimming, also known as winter swimming or ice swimming, is becoming more popular as a special form of endurance sport. It involves swimming in cold to ice-cold water, mainly during winter or in colder regions.

Studies suggest that cold water swimming has health benefits, including changes in hematological and endocrine function, fewer upper respiratory tract infections, and improved mood and well-being. However, there are potential risks to consider, so this review aims to outline both the benefits and risks of cold water swimming.


In short, ice swimming is a competition where people swim in water below 5°C. Swimming in cold water can be good for the body, including the heart, hormones, immune system, and mental health. But, it can also be dangerous for people who are not experienced or trained. It's best to gradually get used to the cold water with a training program and a supervisor. Overall, more research is needed to learn more about the health benefits of cold water swimming.

Levels of Uric Acid and Glutathione During Brief Exposure Whole Body Cold exposure

The study looked at ten healthy people who regularly swim in ice-cold water during the winter. They were tested before and after being exposed to the cold. The researchers found that the participants had much lower levels of uric acid during and after the exposure to the cold. This might be because the uric acid was being used up to fight off harmful oxygen particles. The researchers also found that the levels of a substance called glutathione increased in the participants after being exposed to the cold. This supports the idea that the body is adapting to the stress caused by the cold exposure. The researchers think that this adaptation might help the body to better handle stress and disease in the future. They also suggest that repeated short-term exposure to cold, like swimming in ice-cold water, might be helpful for this adaptation. This is sometimes used in physical therapy to help people build up resistance to stress.

How Regular Winter Swimming Affects Indicators of Stress in Healthy Men's Blood

Regular cold baths can improve our body's defenses against harmful substances and reduce stress in our body. The study involved 28 healthy men who were part of a winter swimming club. They took a 3-minute cold bath in a cold lake once a week during the winter swimming season. Blood samples were taken before the bath, 30 minutes after the bath, and 24 hours after the bath to measure different substances in the body. The researchers found that regular exposure to cold water increased the body's defenses against harmful substances. This led to a decrease in signs of stress in the body before and after the cold bath. The study suggests that taking short cold baths regularly can be a helpful way to improve our body's defenses against stress.

The Effect of an Ice-Cold Water Bath on the Body's Antioxidant System After Exercise in Healthy Men

The study aimed to investigate the effect of a 5-minute head-out ice-cold water bath on the balance between oxidants and antioxidants in response to exercise. The study involved 24 participants who performed two cycling exercises for 30 minutes and then recovered for 10 minutes at room temperature or in ice-cold water. The levels of certain substances in the blood were measured before and after exercise and recovery. The study found that the ice-cold water bath led to lower levels of a particular substance that indicates oxidative stress, and this suggests that the ice-cold water bath helps reduce post-exercise oxidative stress.

Effects of cold showers on patients with inflammatory arthritis

This study looked at the effects of a new home treatment method, a whole-body cold shower therapy, on 121 patients with chronic inflammatory arthritis. The treatment appeared to significantly reduce pain, and there was a trend towards better sleep quality. No significant side effects were recorded.

Physiological responses to acute cold exposure

When exposed to mild cold, the body's non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) plays a crucial role in increasing calorie-burning, mainly by using fats for energy. This effect is likely due to both skeletal muscles and brown fat working together. On the other hand, white fat under the skin doesn't seem to play a significant role in NST. The biggest changes in NST occur during the first 30 minutes of cold exposure, when discomfort is lowest.

Effects of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy has been used for a long time to treat different diseases and promote health. Although there isn't enough scientific evidence to explain how it works, some studies suggest it can help different parts of the body. This review aims to report on the scientific evidence of hydrotherapy's effects on various parts of the body, including its use to improve the immune system and manage different health problems like pain, asthma, anxiety, and obesity. However, while there is evidence to support these effects, it's still unclear how hydrotherapy works on these diseases. More research is needed to understand its mechanisms.

Contrast Water Therapy and Exercise Induced Muscle Damage

Cold water therapy (CWT) is a good way to help muscles recover after exercise, compared to just resting. It can reduce muscle soreness and help muscles work better after exercise. This is especially true for elite athletes. There is no best way to do CWT, and it works about the same as other popular recovery methods like cold or warm water immersion, compression, active recovery, and stretching.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new recovery methods, including ice baths or cold showers.