Long a popular recovery tool for elite athletes, cold water immersion (CWI) is now one of the most buzzed about trends in the fitness industry. Wondering what it is and whether it’s right for your fitness business? Here’s a closer look.

What is Cold Water Immersion?

Science for Sport describes cold water immersion, AKA cold water therapy, plunge pools, and ice-baths, as “a recovery process involving the immersion of the body into cold water (≤15˚C/59˚F) immediately after exercise in an attempt to enhance the recovery process.” 

How does it work, exactly? “Despite there being an abundance of research on CWI, the primary mechanisms for its ability to improve recovery are still not fully understood,” continues Science for Sport. Possible theories include blood vessel constriction, reducing inflammatory pathways, hydrostatic pressure, and the analgesic effect of the water. Others, however, attribute its impact to the placebo effect. 

The Benefits of CWI

Though the research is still out regarding the degree to which CWI impacts recovery, it is commonly believed to have the ability to reduce edema, decrease the perception of muscle pain, decrease the perception of fatigue, alter blood flow, alter tissue and core temperature, alter heart rate, reduce muscle spasms, reduce tissue inflammation, reduce muscle damage, and improve range of motion. 

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently sponsored research of its own on the effect of CWI on recovery and exercise performance. Its findings were that acute post-exercise CWI was a more effective recovery strategy than no CWI when it came to maintaining endurance and power performance. Even more promising is that there was no “dose-response relationship” found. In other words, the benefits can be achieved with minimal time commitment. 

Said research team leader Lance C. Dalleck, Ph.D., of the findings, “If you have clients who are committed to their training programs, CWI is a good investment of their time, especially when you consider the fact that only 10 minutes of CWI was required after each workout.” 

Then there’s the fact that immersion fitness feels good. In speaking of his personal experiences with CWI, Dr. Austin Hunt enthuses, “‘Euphoric’ is the word that proponents of a new workout — Immersion Fitness — use to describe the sensation that can be produced through a combination of hard exercise followed by exposure to cold water, and I would not disagree.” 

Echoes endurance athlete, personal trainer, and Immersion Fitness founder Nigel Jenkins, “Our bodies are simply not designed for the 21st-century lifestyle. We need excitement, exertion, stimulation, and challenge.” This is exactly what CWI provides, says Jenkins. 

The Recovery Imperative

As recovery increasingly takes center stage in the fitness industry, cold water plunge pools, along with other cold water therapy products including cryotherapy, balneotherapy, and hydrotherapy, are some of many recovery options to which fitness businesses are turning. 

With the trend showing no sign of stopping anytime soon, investing in CWI — or other recovery programming, such as stretching classes and massage — can be an invaluable member recruitment and retention strategy. 

Cryotherapy unit.

Keeping up with the latest fitness trends is an important way for fitness businesses to survive and thrive in today’s competitive landscape. One technology now positioned not as a nice-to-have but as a must-have is fitness monitoring equipment.  Request a demo today to learn what the Accurofit System can do for you.