Proving she’s braver than a lot of us, Lady Gaga takes ice baths like it’s no big deal.
The singer has posted a picture of herself submerged in ice with the hashtag #vmas. Athletes often use ice baths to recover from big games or training, and it looks like Gaga is using the intense cold to support her muscles following gruelling rehearsals. She’s set to hit the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards 2020, performing Rain On Me with Ariana Grande.
Gaga has long been a fan of ice baths, regularly posting about it on Instagram. Last year she wrote beneath another snap of herself submerged in ice: “Post show routine: ice bath for 5-10 min, hot bath for 20, then compression suit packed with ice packs for 20.”
We often see sportspeople like Jessica Ennis-Hill, LeBron James and Andy Murray taking a chilly dip in an ice bath to aid recovery. “It promotes blood flow and reduces inflammation in cells, and is great for the recovery of muscle tissue,” explains Dr Tom Maggs, from the Clinova healthcare app Caidr.
He suggests ice baths are better than ice packs if you have a specific injury, as the latter “can cause cold burns if applied incorrectly”.
Maggs explains ice baths can help reduce muscle damage “by suppressing the immune system’s response to muscle pain.
However, if you were trying to build muscle over time with strength training, regular ice baths would hinder your progress in muscle gain – but it still has great benefits for short term recovery from cardio activity.”
It’s not just athletes who could potentially benefit from ice baths (other famous fans include Zac Efron, Kevin Hart and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey). “Lady Gaga is not wrong that cold baths have health benefits – if you can bear taking that cold plunge,” says Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Pharmacy.
She cites research that found sudden immersion in cold water could potentially increase your adrenaline and dopamine levels.
“Adrenaline and cortisol are key mediators in the immune response,” Lee explains. “Dopamine plays a central role in mood and wellbeing.
Regular cold water bathing has been shown to boost the immune system, and has benefits for your mental health, to relieve stress and depression, and help in the management of chronic pain.” Gaga has spoken in the past about suffering from chronic pain due to having fibromyalgia.
Lee even suggests cold immersion “may facilitate weight loss”, referring to a study that found cold exposure could stimulate brown fat cells in mice, saying: “Activation of brown fat cells has recently been recognised as a tool to help combat obesity, because this is a way of increasing energy expenditure.”
Even if you’re not ready for a full-on ice bath, cold immersion therapy can be done in other ways – like turning the temperature on your shower right down for as long as you can manage.
The Wim Hof Method has also exploded in popularity (with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix show, The Goop Lab, dedicating an episode to it), and it’s all about just this. Dutch athlete Wim Hof, 61 – otherwise known as the Iceman – swears by a combination of meditation, breathing exercises and exposure to the cold, claiming it can reduce stress and aid recovery. However, it’s not advisable to attempt the Wim Hof Method without consulting a doctor, especially if you suffer with respiratory issues or any pre-existing health problems.
For Lee, the best thing about ice baths and cold immersion in general is the amount of time it takes for you to feel the benefits. “The sudden deluge of cold water on to the cold receptors in your skin results in these instantaneous physiological changes,” she explains.
“This means, thankfully, you don’t have to tough it out for long to see the benefits.”