7 March 2013

Athletes often plunge into cold water to assist recovery after exercise, but there is little research available to explain how the technique works.

PhD student Llion Roberts from the School of Human Movement Studies at The University of Queensland is leading a series of studies into the short and long-term physiological responses on the impact of cold water immersion therapy after resistance exercise.

“We have shown that just 10 minutes of immersion at 10 degrees Celsius significantly affects blood gas characteristics and reduces inflammation markers after high-intensity resistance training,” said Mr Roberts.

“These findings indicate that cold water significantly affects the physiological response within the body, which can lead to effects on exercise performance,” he said.

“Cold water immersion is also of benefit in decreasing fatigue and maintaining performance during subsequent resistance exercise.”

The research is also investigating acute and chronic effects of cold water immersion on performance, as well as on cellular and molecular responses within skeletal muscle.

“There are limited evidence-based guidelines for the use of cold water immersion,” Mr Roberts said. “I hope my research will contribute to the development of enhanced athlete recovery and training strategies.

“Enhancing the recovery process will ultimately allow us to maximise training-induced results, and may also assist with athlete resilience to injury.

“A one per cent improvement in an athlete’s performance can make all the difference in competition, so understanding the physiological responses to cold water immersion therapy and the best way to incorporate it into performance and training may be a fantastic breakthrough for many athletes.”

The Queensland Academy of Sport’s Centre of Excellence in Applied Sport Science Research, Exercise and Sport Science Australia and Sports Medicine Australia are funding the studies.

Contact: Janelle Hocking, Marketing and Communications, UQ School of Human Movement Studies, +61 7 3365 6764