3 Chilling Benefits of Cold Exercise

Learn from these three articles on pre-cooling before workouts, exercising in the cold, and cold water for recovery.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #304

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the cold. In 5 Little Known Workouts To Burn Fat And Build Muscle, I discuss how to use something called “cold thermogenesis” for both fat loss and hormone balance.

In “More Proof That Ice Can Help You Get Fit,” I introduce two studies from last year that prove the effectiveness of cold thermogenesis, icing, and cold water immersion for alleviating muscle soreness, exercise-induced muscle damage, and inflammation (although, as you’re about to discover, there can be “responders” and “non-responders”).

In that same article, I mention that I keep my home at a constant 60-65 degrees, take two icy cold showers a day, use a fat burning ice vest during the summer, and implement lots of other body cooling strategies that I explain in my Cold Thermogenesis How-To article and also in my comprehensive T-Nation article “Cold Temps for a Hot Body.”

Finally, as if that weren’t enough to make you think I’m obsessed with cold things, I dispel the myth that “icing a muscle is bad for you” in Are Cold Showers and Baths Really Bad for You?

But this month, I’ve discovered three recent articles on cold exposure: articles that you may want to pay close attention to if you want to maximize the benefits of exercise by using the cold. Let’s dive into this chilling body of research, shall we?

1. Get Cold Before Your Next Workout

In this first study “Running performance in the heat is improved by similar magnitude with pre-exercise cold-water immersion and mid-exercise facial water spray," you learn about why you may want to take a cold shower before your next hard workout or run.

In the study, researchers compared the effects of pre-cooling before exercise and mid-exercise cooling on running time trial performance and the physiological response to running. In this case, trained male runners completed a total of three 5 km running time trials on a non-motorized treadmill in relatively hot conditions (a nice balmy temperature of 91.4F!). Each trial included pre-cooling by cold-water immersion, which is basically sitting in a cold bath, mid-exercise cooling with a cold facial water spray, and a control group that (poor fellas) received no cooling at all. Researchers monitored temperature, cardiorespiratory, muscular activation, and how hard the runners perceived the exercise to be, along with blood lactic acid levels.

Running performance time was significantly faster following cold water immersion and also when getting sprayed with cold water during exercise. Both cooling strategies significantly reduced body temperature and increased the strength of muscle activation. Even the gold standard of body temperature measurement during exercise, rectal (yes rectal) was significantly lowered by a pre-cooling bath both pre-exercise and during the entire run, and also produced a lower sweat rate.

So even if you don’t have a big icy bath to soak in, try this: rather than waiting until after your next workout or hard run to shower, jump in a cold shower beforehand.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.