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man submerged in a cold plunge

Ice Bath vs. Cold Plunge

As physical wellness practices continue to gain popularity, there has been an increased interest in cold water therapy. Two popular cold water therapy techniques are ice baths and cold plunges. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are actually some key differences between the two.


What is an Ice Bath?

An ice bath involves immersing the body in a container filled with ice and cold water. With an ice bath you are controlling the temperature of the water by adding or taking out ice. Ice baths do not have a chiller or built in cooling system which means it is not required to be plugged in.


What is a Cold Plunge?

A cold plunge is similar to an ice bath in that it involves immersing the body in cold water. However, the water in a cold plunge is not filled with ice, but instead cools the water by a chiller or refrigerator unit. The user is able to set the temperature of the water to the exact degree they are wanting. Also, a cold plunge constantly keeps water flowing and uses a filtration system to keep the water clean.


Are there health benefits that one offers over the other?

No, both ice baths and cold plunges have the same number of potential benefits for the body and mind. Both options are still cold water therapy and can accomplish the same things.:

  • Reduce inflammation and muscle soreness
  • Improve circulation
  • Boost the immune system
  • Increase metabolism
  • Improve mental clarity and alertness
  • Reduce stress and anxiety


What makes them different?

This section will go into detail to show the difference between the two options and why you may pick one over the other.



With an ice bath you have to add ice in order to get the water cold. Depending on the temperature outside or if it is in the sun will depend how much ice you need to get to your desired temperature. This can be difficult to get a consistent temperature because your environment is changing and eventually the ice starts to melt. With a cold plunge it is hooked up to a chiller or has a built in cooling system that you can set to an exact temperature. With a cold plunge you don't have to worry about temperatures changing throughout your use. 



The ice bath is always the cheaper option upfront because it does not come with a chiller or have a built in cooling system.  That being said, depending on how much you use it and how often your ice melts will affect how frequently you need to buy ice. For some people that price can add up to a lot of money but keep in mind you would have to buy a ton of ice to match what a cold plunge costs.



The cold plunge by far is the more convenient option of the two. This is because for one you never have to get ice to cool down your water and it has a filtration system built in that delays the need to clean your tub. For an ice bath you can expect to have to change the water out more often and make continuous trips to get ice. Something important to keep about ice baths is you don't have to get more ice every time you use it.


Which method is right for you?

Whether you choose to use an ice bath or a cold plunge will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and needs. Luckily for you, both options can offer life changing health benefits and allow you a way to practice cold water therapy. In conclusion an ice bath is cheaper but is harder to keep consistent temperatures and requires more work with getting ice and having to clean it more often.

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