Post-exercise cold-water immersion improves the performance in a subsequent 5-km running trial

Temperature (Austin). 2018 Sep 12;5(4):359-370. doi: 10.1080/23328940.2018.1495023. eCollection 2018.


Various post-exercise strategies have been proposed to accelerate recovery during periods of training. However, the effects of water immersion (WI) temperature on recovery amid multiple daily exercise bouts are not well investigated.

Purpose: To evaluate the effects of cold and warm water immersion temperatures between acute exercise bouts vs. no WI recovery on running performance.

Methods: Nine recreationally trained men (age: 24.0 ± 6.0 years old) participated in four experimental sessions using a crossover design. Each experimental session consisted of unilateral eccentric knee flexion exercise and 90 min of treadmill running at 70% of peak oxygen consumption followed by 15 min of WI at 15°C, 28°C or 38°C or passive recovery seated at room temperature (CON). Four hours following WI or CON, subjects completed a 5 km running time trial. Rectal temperature (Trec), heart rate, and excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) were measured.

Results: Statistical analyses indicated that time trial performance was not affected by post-exercise recovery by WI (P > .05). The magnitude-based inferences indicated that 15°C (+ 3.6 ± 7.8%) likely and 28°C (+ 3.2 ± 7.5%) possibly improved recovery compared with CON, while the effect of 38°C (- 0.1 ± 12.3%) on recovery was unclear. During WI, heart rate and rectal temperature were not different from CON, but EPOC was higher in 15°C and 28°C compared to CON. Trec in 15°C was lower than CON from the 15th min post WI. EPOC was also greater in 15°C post WI compared to CON.

Conclusion: WI at 15°C and 28°C following acute exercise likely and possibly, respectively, improved subsequent 5 km running time trial performance. We speculate that the faster recovery in core temperature post-exercise may underlie these improvements in recovery.

Keywords: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption; recovery; rectal temperature; self-pace running.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) [PNPD-2455/2011], Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG) [CDS-APQ 00908-08], and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) [445096/2014-4] funding agencies.