Thinking of taking the plunge? Cold water therapy tubs: are they worth it and what’s the best one to buy?

Reap the benefits of ice baths at home with these water therapy tubs.

Cold water therapy tubs

by Ellen Kinsey |
Updated on

An ice bath may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of taking care of yourself, but the benefits of cold water therapy tubs are truly extraordinary. Self-care can come in many forms, from painting your nails, meditating, baking or taking an ice bath, there are many things we can do for our mindfulness.

If you're looking for new ways to keep your mind, body and soul in top shape, then you might want to try cold water therapy. Many celebrities such as Joe Wicks, Emma Willis, David Beckham and Madonna are taking a plunge into ice baths, as the benefits of an ice bath aren't only for your body but your mind and nervous system as well.

Best ice and cold water therapy tubs at a glance:

Editor's choice: Polar Recovery Tub - Buy now on Amazon UK
Best budget large freestanding cold water therapy tub: SMONTER Portable Bathtub - Buy now on Amazon UK
Best foldable cold water therapy tub: Foldable Freestanding Adult Bathtub Buy now on The Range

How to choose a cold water therapy tub

When you're thinking about buying a cold water therapy tub, consider the following points

  • Space - How much (or how little) room do you have for a tub? Will you need one that is portable, or you can fold away, or do you want a permanent structure in your garden?

  • Width - Would you prefer a narrow, tighter tub that you slide into, or one that allows more room to move about?

  • Depth - Ideally you want to be able to fully submerge in a cold water therapy tub so if you're especially tall make sure your tub is deep enough

  • Budget - More expensive doesn't necessarily mean better, so decide how much you want to spend and look for the highest quality option in your price range

  • Your mobility - Some cold water therapy tubs are low to the ground, others require a degree of hip flexibility to be able to climb in. Make sure you think about any mobility issues you might have - or other users - before purchasing.

The best cold water therapy tubs

If you do decide to try cold water therapy, do read our tips in this article, and make sure you have some warm clothing on hand for afterwards. We love a dryrobe for its warmth and ease of use, but you can always make do with some fluffy warm towels when you first start out. We've rounded up some accessories below our pick of the best cold water therapy tubs.

Editor's choice

Polar Recovery Tub
Price: $114.99

The Polar Recovery Tub is specifically designed for your cold-water plunges. We love that it’s easy to clean and requires minimal maintenance - just change the water every ten days or as preferred.

Reviewers love the size and portability of the Polar Recovery tub, and of course, the health benefits: “Great quality and perfect size for my garden. It’s really helping with my recovery and sets me up for the day."

Unlike inflatable tubs, the Polar Recovery Tub are solid, so offer more longevity, and it also comes with a protective lid to keep the water cleaner when you take a plunge. These tubs are suitable for people up to 6’7.

The Polar Recovery Tub is the top choice of our editor because we felt the price point was reasonable, and the quality exceptional. It ticks a lot of the boxes we had when looking - portable, easy to clean, and suitable for all heights. The lid was a really great added feature.

Pros

  • High quality materials used for longevity
  • Specifically designed for plunging

Cons

  • Can't be taken down - but it is portable

Best budget large freestanding cold water therapy tub

The SMONTER Portable Bathtub is freestanding and foldable for ease of storage. Reviewers commented that it’s “well-padded and comfortable to sit in.”

In terms of quality, it’s made with three layers of material to keep the tub waterproof and maintain the water's temperature. It measures 70cm x 70cm, and when full to capacity it can hold 120L. 

However, we felt the tub has one major flaw, as pointed out by this review:
“It's in the garden full of cold water. There is no cover, so I use a large towel to cover it overnight.”

Despite this, at such a low price point it is our top pick for best budget large tub, because it really can't be beaten on size vs cost.

Pros

  • Large size - perfect for taller users
  • Folds for easy storage

Cons

  • No protective cover

Best foldable cold water therapy tub

You might have seen the Foldable Freestanding Adult Bathtub advertised and, provided your mobility is good enough to get up and down from the floor with ease, it might be a great choice. You can fill it with warm or cold water and has a lid to keep the water at temperature. This makes it more versatile than other options on our list – and if you don’t have a bath at home this could double up for a relaxing warm soak too. 
It's a sturdy design but it also folds up, making it portable. We love that the bottom of the bath is anti-slip for extra safety, and those are the reasons we ranked it as the best foldable cold water therapy tub.

Pros

  • Fantastic design
  • High-quality material
  • Foldable and portable

Cons

  • It is quite deep and reviewers say there could be a better way of emptying the water such as a normal plug rather than the pipe 

The best traditional cold water therapy barrel

Oak Barrels for Ice Bath Recovery
Price: £172.49-£334.99

www.celtictimber.co.uk

Using a barrel as an ice bath is the traditional way to do cold water plunging, and Celtic Timber produce the aesthetically pleasing barrels Oak Barrels for Ice Bath Recovery but be warned – they are very heavy. 

They come with a lift-off lid made from the original barrel top, which we love, and there’s also a tap for easy drainage. It’s recommended that you keep the barrel full even when not in use to prevent the barrel staves from drying out, especially in summer. 

Reviewers have praised Celtic Timber for their customer service, stating: “Dispatch and delivery were rapid, even over the Christmas and New Year period. Communication and customer service were excellent when I had a query.”

Although they’re not cheap (prices vary), if you’re wanting a visually pleasing addition to your garden, these oak barrels are a great choice. Add in the great customer service and that's wy we rate it as our best traditional choice.

Pros

  • Rustic traditional design
  • Looks great in the garden

Cons

  • Heavy

Best budget standing cold water therapy tub

best-cold-water-therapy-tubsAmazon
Price: £53.77

This Dynamicoz Portable Foldable Bathtub is our budget pick and might be a good way of trying cold plunging before you take the plunge and buy a more expensive permanent fixture. This tub is made of thick waterproof fabric, but it’s still very lightweight. It’s also portable so you can position it where you want – you could even bring it inside during colder months though this might defeat the object of cold-water therapy somewhat. 

The cylindrical shape means you can sit comfortably inside it and be fully submerged – it measures 70cm high and the rim around the top is supportive enough for you to rest your head or arms on it. It also comes with a water cushion. 

It's not as great as the SMONTER Portable Bathtub, because it's not as big, but it is cheaper and does take up less space, so we've made it our best budget pick.

Pros

  • Good value - ideal if you're trying cold water therapy for the first time
  • Foldable for easy storage

Cons

  • It is a budget option and you might be better to invest in a more permanent structure

Best cold water therapy tub with plenty of room

best-cold-water-therapy-tubs
Price: $35.92

Yes, this is actually a large paddling pool rather than a dedicated cold-water plunge tub, but if you need the extra room – whether for mobility issues or because you want to have room for more than one person- this Intex Easy Set Swimming Pool is a good buy. 
We’ve always found Intex pools to be really good quality, and a reviewer notes that it’s “quite a robust yet simple design.” 

It does take up quite a bit of room, at 6ft wide, which also means it takes a lot of filling. However, if you’re going to use it regularly for a run of days in a row, it’s worth the effort. There’s no cover included though, so you may want to pop a tarpaulin over the top when not in use.

Pros

  • Doubles as a paddling pool
  • Good quality, robust design and easy to set up

Cons

  • Better suited to large gardens

Cold water plunge accessories

Best dry robe for cold plunges in nature

If you’re taking the plunge with cold-water therapy, it’s important you warm up quickly afterwards. We absolutely love the dryrobe Advance LONG SLEEVE Change Robe and have worn ours for all sorts of things, especially coming out of the sea in the UK – even in the summer months. 

We really enjoy wild swimming and cold plunging, and we’ve really noticed the benefits to our overall wellbeing, as well as how it helps regulate our nervous system. But we don’t mind admitting that the thought of being so cold afterwards puts us off. 

The dryrobe Advance comes in different fleece-lined colours and a range of sizes including kids. They are designed to be roomy so you can change underneath them – which we’ve done many times – and crucially, they’re warm. 

A dryrobe isn’t cheap, but it is a worthwhile investment if you’re intending to be a regular in a cold plunge tub or swimming outdoors.

Pros

  • Long-sleeved for extra warmth
  • Oversized fit for changing clothes

Cons

  • At the higher end of the price-range for robes, but a good investment due to its overall quality

Budget dry robe

As one reviewer put it, the Aomednx Waterproof Hoodie Poncho is “Ideal. Just the job, between the outside pool and shower." This is a good budget option compared to a dryrobe, and they both act in similar ways. 

The main difference is the lining – a dryrobe has a fleece inside whereas the Aomednx is towelling, but if that doesn’t bother you then this is a good cheaper alternative, especially if you want to buy them for more than one family member. 

Changing inside of it is simple, as it’s roomy, and we felt it was a perfect choice for using during summer months when you might not want something as warm as a dryrobe.

Pros

  • Comes in different colours
  • Waterproof with towelling lining

Cons

  • One size may not fit all so make sure you check measurements

Read more...

The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Potential, Transcend Your LimitsAmazon
Price: $9.39

If you are interested in cold water therapy and want to learn more, then we recommend Wim Hof's book, The Wim Hof Method. It will show you how to harness three key elements to master mind over matter and achieve the impossible - cold, breathing and mindset.

FAQs

Why do people take ice baths?

Physical recovery: Many athletes take an ice bath after training. It can change how fluids like blood and lymph flow through your body. In this process, your vessels constrict due to the cold and open up after you get out and warm up. Scientific evidence suggests that cold water therapy helps the metabolic waste from your body. All the while, this gets oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Additionally, ice baths lower inflammation after intense physical exercise, helping with recovery.

Weight loss: Another potential benefit of ice baths is that they could lead to weight loss, as cold temperatures stimulate the activation of brown fat tissue throughout your body. The brown fat encourages your body to produce heat as it burns off white fat. If you are on a weight loss journey, taking regular ice baths prevents the accumulation of excess body weight.

Increased parasympathetic activity: As mentioned above, exposing your body to icy temperatures on a regular basis is known to make you more resilient to stress, anxiety and depression. The cold stimulates the vagus nerve, which leads to an increase in parasympathetic activity. This has amazing effects on many conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and gut and digestion problems.

What does an ice bath do?

According to Dr A. Brion Gardner, an orthopaedic surgeon with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics for Healthline, taking a cold plunge can help ease the soreness, burning and aching in your muscles after training sessions. When you expose your body to the cold, it causes the blood vessels to constrict. This reduces inflammation, swelling or other reactions in the body.

Cold water therapy tubs can offer potential mental health benefits. “Most people do not find the ice bath experience to be pleasant at first. It can be frankly painful,” says Dr Elizabeth Gardner, MD Yale Medicine sports medicine doctor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Yale School of Medicine. “However, this improves with relaxing, focusing on your breathing, and even some distraction. Over time, many people will build up a tolerance for the cold. They will come to find it an essential part of their recovery process."

What are the benefits of ice baths?

According to the Dutch motivational speaker and extreme athlete Wim Hof (aka The Iceman), our skin is never exposed to the natural elements. However, he believes we are built to be stimulated. As there are thermal receptors on the surface of our skin, being exposed to cold water gives us an electrical jolt to the deepest part of our brain.

The cold stimulates our vagus nerve, a part of our parasympathetic nervous system. This controls many crucial bodily functions such as mood, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. When the vagus nerve is activated, it taps into our parasympathetic mode. Then, our breathing and heart rate slow and allows our body to remain in a state of calm.

How to properly take an ice bath

Temperature: The first step is to make sure you have the right temperature. The water should be between 10-15°C. If using a blow-up or fold-down tub mentioned above, you should get some bags of ice and use a thermometer to check the temperature.

How to position yourself: Position your body so that you can fully submerge into the ice bath. Ideally, you want to get your entire body up to your neck submerged in the water in order to reap the full benefits of blood vessel constriction.

Time: The best time to take an ice bath is directly after a workout. After about an hour or so, many of the inflammatory, physiological responses would have already started or finished by this time.

Breathing: Perhaps the most important aspect of taking an ice bath is breathing. It is a central part of the Wim Hof Method, and when he coaches people to breathe properly, he states that “to oxygenate the body, you must keep calm and endure the shock of the cold water.”

Wim instructs Joe Wicks on how to take an ice bath. The best method is to take 30 deep breaths, inhale and exhale, and then hold the breath between 1.5 and three minutes before hopping in. You can watch this experience in the video below:

After Joe gets out of the ice bath he ecstatically claims, "I feel alive! It went quite quick, as I was focused on my breath. All I can say right now is that I have never felt so unbelievably alive. I have had cold showers over the past few months and I hated it when I first stepped in. I have been on this path of curiosity to get in the ice bath and feel that cold."

A step-by-step guide to taking an ice bath

Firstly before you go in, you might want to set a timer. Set it for three minutes but only go in for as long as you can manage. Get someone to help you with this if you need the support.

Once immersed in the cold water, it's important to focus on long, slow; steady exhales out of your mouth when you dunk yourself in. Make sure you relax your shoulders and close your eyes.

Are cold showers the same as ice baths?

While it's not quite the same experience as submerging yourself in icy water, you can still get some of the effects by taking a cold shower. While cold showers were often talked about before, it was Wim Hof, aka the Iceman, who really started the cold shower movement.

Some benefits of cold showers include reduced stress, higher levels of alertness, more robust immune response, increased willpower, and weight loss. Immersing yourself in icy water “brings balance to the hormonal system,” he states in a video tutorial on his website, where you can take online courses in the Wim Hof Method.

Here is a video of Wim Hof explaining why you should take cold showers every day and the benefits

Wim Hof advises gradually building up the duration and intensity of your cold shower. If you have no prior experience with cold showers, start with a regular shower and finish the last 30 seconds cold. You quickly notice that you are able to tolerate the cold more over time.

How long should your ice baths be?

To reap the benefits of an ice bath, medical experts recommend that you spend around three minutes in the ice bath. You shouldn't spend any more than 10-15 minutes as you may be at risk of getting hypothermia. Start with two or three minutes at first and see how you feel after the first attempt.

When it’s time to come out, shake out your body and make noises if you need to release. Afterwards, you will feel sharp and alive.

Ellen Kinsey was a Senior Health and Wellness Product Writer and has been a part of Bauer Media since 2020. She has left Bauer Media to study Ayurveda in India to expand her knowledge and skills in the health and wellness field, where she plans to continue making journalistic contributions.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us