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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Study Spotlight: Effects of Cold Tub on Ratings of Well Being and HRV

Cold tubs have been used for a long time for athletic recovery, injury treatment and also enhanced performance.  There has been a lot of discussion as to how they work and why we use them.  The evidence is light on if a true vasoconstriction of your blood vessels in your legs actually occurs when getting into a cold tub.  The thought is after working out the vasoconstriction that might occur can help "flush" out the junk and metabolic waste found in your tissue.  The thought also is that being in the cold water could also slow down chemical reactions and therefore decrease the damage that has been done.

We have brought up on the blog before the idea of challenging why we ice and if it is truly the right treatment option for all of our injuries and for the most part that translates over to cold water immersion (cold tubing).  Slowing down the bodies natural healing response through cold still doesn't seem like your best option but the other ways in which jumping in cold water can help have shown to be highly beneficial.

This study looked at the effects of cold water immersion (CWI) on heart rate variability (HRV) and the subjective ratings of well being in highly trained swimmers.  HRV is a measuring tool to gauge recovery and normal state in anyone that is active.  The changes in your heart rate can show us exactly how you were feeling before working out, after and how much you recovered the next day.  What the study found was the getting in cold water after training had a profound effect on getting the body into a recovery state quicker.  The subjects were able to get back to a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) sooner and this was maintained for a much longer period of time.  HRV regulated much quicker in the group that used the cold tub and their subjective ratings on how they felt and how they slept were much higher.

The Take Away:
Cold water immersion may not "flush" out your legs while using it but it does set your body up for a long (12 hours or more) phase of enhanced recover.  This can help speed up your ability to recover and get back to working out the following day at a better state.  Combining this with nutrition and other recovery techniques can take your recovery to the next level.

This isn't only meant for athletes and can be used for the recreational person working out or for someone looking for better sleep.  Cold therapy has it's place in rest and recovery and this might be the best place to start.

Heart Math Inner Balance Sensor

BioForce HRV


Reference:
Effect of daily cold water immersion on heart rate variability and subjective ratings of well being in highly trained swimmers.
Hani Al Haddad
Int. Jour of Sports Physiol and Perf 2011
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