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Effects of Water Immersion Methods on Postexercise Recovery of Physical and Mental Performance

Ahokas, Essi K.1; Ihalainen, Johanna K.1,2; Kyröläinen, Heikki1; Mero, Antti A.1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: June 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 6 - p 1488–1495
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003134
Original Research
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Ahokas, EK, Ihalainen, JK, Kyröläinen, H, and Mero, AA. Effects of water immersion methods on postexercise recovery of physical and mental performance. J Strength Cond Res 33(6): 1488–1495, 2019—The aim of this study was to compare the effectiveness of 3 water immersion interventions performed after active recovery compared with active recovery only on physical and mental performance measures and physiological responses. The subjects were physically active men (age 20–35 years, mean ± SD 26 ± 3.7 years). All subjects performed a short-term exercise protocol, including maximal jumps and sprinting. Four different recovery methods (10 minutes) were used in random order: cold water immersion (CWI, 10° C), thermoneutral water immersion (TWI, 24° C), and contrast water therapy (CWT, alternately 10° C and 38° C). All these methods were performed after an active recovery (10-minute bicycle ergometer; heart rate [HR] 120–140 b·min−1, 60–73% from age-calculated maximum HR), and the fourth method was active recovery (ACT) only. Within 96 hours after exercise bouts, recovery was assessed through a 30-m maximal sprint test, maximal countermovement jump (CMJ), self-perceived muscle soreness and relaxation questionnaires, and blood lactate, creatine kinase, testosterone, cortisol, and catecholamine levels. The self-perceived feeling of relaxation after 60-minute recovery was better (p < 0.05) after CWI and CWT than ACT and TWI. Statistically significant differences were not observed between the recovery methods in any other marker. In the 30-m sprint test, however, slower running time was found in ACT (p < 0.001) and CWT (p = 0.005), and reduced CMJ results (p < 0.05) were found in ACT when the results were compared with baseline values. Based on these findings, it can be concluded that CWI and CWT improve the acute feeling of relaxation that can play a positive role in athletes' performance and well-being.

1Unit of Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland; and

2Department of Health Sciences, Swedish Winter Sports Research Center, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden

Address correspondence to Essi K. Ahokas, eskaahok@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2019 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.