Whole Body Cryotherapy Vs. the dreaded Ice Bath
A long-standing submerging tradition amongst elite athletes, the ice bath was the penance for a job-well done. Marathoner Paula Radcliffe once described it as “…absolute agony and I dread it”. So why would one purposefully hunker down into a tub of freezing water for 15-20 minutes? Here we explore the key differences between how your body responds to an ice bath as opposed to Whole Body Cryotherapy and why more and more athletes are choosing it as their weapon of choice to maximize recovery.
Your body is submerged in icy water for 15-30 minutes, during which your body attempts to keep the skin’s surface from freezing by sending warm blood from the core to the peripheral tissues. When the body can no longer heat enough blood, the cold begins to penetrate tissues and muscles and blood viscosity thickens, resulting in stiff muscles and tendons. Overexposure can result in muscle tissue damage and even hypothermia in severe cases.
Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC)
Your body is in a dry, cold cryocabin for 2-3 minutes. When your skin receptors sense the sudden reduction in temperature, your brain realizes it cannot fight this extreme cold so it shunts blood supply to the extremities in order to protect the body’s core temperature. As the blood recirculates through the cardiovascular system, it is cleansed of inflammatory enzymes and toxins and replenished with oxygen, nutrients and red blood cells. Upon exiting the cryocabin, your body undergoes rapid vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), sending the enriched blood back to the peripherals and brain
Therefore Whole Body Cryotherapy in comparison to ice baths is:
- Painless - invigorating dry cold air vs. shocking, penetrating and painful cold ice water
- Faster - 3 minute session vs. 15-20 minutes (not including prolonged set-up time)
- Convenient - tissues do not freeze and muscles do not lose capacity, so athletes can get back to training immediately after a treatment
- Cleaner – WBC is a completely dry treatment and there is no need to share with other sweaty bodies
- Much more effective - Systemic cleansing and enrichment of blood vs. systemic cooling of muscles and connective tissues so what this really means for you is it:
- Releases endorphins - you feel good
- Increases collagen production- your skin looks good
- Accelerates metabolic rate - you burn more calories
- Enriches blood - you elevate your well-being naturally