You may have heard of people like Wim Hof, who has become quite well known for his cold-exposure exploits, ice-water-bathing, cold-water-swimming, barefoot-marathon-running, etc. You probably know about various athletes who use post-match ice-baths to aid recovery. Could this be for you? Is there any real evidence that cold-therapy works?

The term “cold therapy” is used here to refer to short-duration cold-exposure after training, exercise, or as a regular routine that aims to improve wellbeing. The techniques vary but cold-water-immersion (including ice bathing) is the most common.  Typically the exposure lasts only a few minutes (3-5 minutes is common, longer than 10 minutes quite unusual). The alternating method (cold-hot-cold-hot) is sometimes used. A simpler method is to have a cold-water-shower, often for the final 3-5 minutes of your shower routine.

Does it work? There are many people who swear by this wellness technique and there are many athletes who feel it aids their recovery post-exercise. But there is no proper scientific evidence that supports these claims. This does not mean that cold exposure does not work. It just means that we cannot prove it works, at least not yet.

There are risks associated with cold exposure. Hypothermia is potentially life-threatening and doctors are concerned about this and the possibility of shock & sudden death.

Cold therapy is an interesting, potentially dangerous technique that may offer some wellness benefits, although these are unproven at this time.