COLD WATER IMMERSION AND CONTRAST WATER THERAPY IMPROVE RECOVERY

Vaile, J., Halson, S., Gill, N., & Dawson, B. (2008). Effect of hydrotherapy on the recovery of exercise-induced fatigue and performance. ACSM 55th Annual Meeting Indianapolis, Presentation Number 803.

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This study investigated the effects of three hydrotherapy interventions on the recovery of performance following exercise-induced fatigue. Endurance cyclists (N = 12) completed four experimental trials differing only in recovery intervention: cold water immersion (15C), hot water immersion (38C), contrast water therapy (38C/15C), or passive recovery, all performed for 14 minutes. Each trial comprised five consecutive exercise days, each incorporating a testing session of 105 minutes comprising 66 maximal effort sprints of 5-15 seconds with specific work to rest ratios of 1:6, 1:3, and 1:1. Additionally, nine minutes of sustained effort (time trial) was incorporated into the protocol. Upon the completion of each exercise session, Ss completed one of the recovery interventions (randomly assigned to each trial). Performance (average power), core temperature, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion were recorded throughout each testing session.

Sprint and time trial performances were significantly enhanced across the five day trial following cold water immersion and contrast water therapy interventions, when compared to hot water immersion and passive recovery. Additionally, significant differences in core temperature were observed between interventions immediately upon recovery and 15 minutes into recovery. No significant differences were observed in heart rates or ratings of perceived exertion regardless of day in a trial or intervention.

Implication. Cold water immersion and contrast water therapy appear to aid recovery from repeated high intensity cycling with Ss better able to maintain performance across five days, when compared to hot water immersion and passive recovery.

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