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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Study Spotlight: Can Cryotherapy Enhance Recovery?

By: Andrew Jagim

It sounds like something out of an Austin Powers movie but believe it more and more people are utilizing cryotherapy as a tool to enhance recovery.  So what is cryotherapy and why is Joe Rogan always ranting and raving about it? Cryotherapy is the cooling of the body for theraputic purposes often exposing the body to temperatures ~110-130 degrees Celsius!  So does it actually work? Recently researchers set up an experiment to see if acute cryotherapy could enhance recovery and influence endurance performance in endurance athletes.

What did they do?

Researchers had 11 elite endurance athletes complete a ramping time to exhaustion protocol, followed by 5 sets 5 minutes of high intensity running on two separate days. After the high intensity running, subjects completed 1 hour of passive rest at ~22 degrees Celsius followed by either Cryotherapy exposure at -110 degrees Celsius for 3 minutes or placebo.  The time to exhaustion test was also then repeated 1 hour after the cold exposure / placebo treatment.  Differences in time to exhaustion, oxygen saturation levels, heart rate, motivation and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were compared between recovery treatment conditions.

What did they find?
The results are actually pretty amazing.  The researchers found improvements in time to exhaustion and oxygen content in the muscles.  They also found reductions in oxygen consumption, heart rate and RPE during the follow up time to exhaustion ride meaning they athletes didn't weren't working as hard to complete the same distance.

Take Home Message:
The results of the study suggest that acute extreme cold exposure may serve as a valuable recovery tool in between multiple training sessions or competition events. Even as little as 3 minutes can facilitate the recovery process and provide a performance benefit. Good news for all of our readers living in Fargo, ND as they can just step outside during January and recover faster!



Reference:
Kruger, M., Marees, M., Dittmar, K., Sperlich, B., and Mester, J. Whole-body cryotherapy's enhancement of acute recovery of running performance in well-trained athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2015. 10, 605-612.
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