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Can Hot Baths Prevent Sore Muscles?

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Should you stick to the ice pack post-workout, or try a hot bath? Our pro weighs in on the best way to prevent and relieve sore muscles.
Question: "Will a hot bath help prevent muscle soreness after a workout?"

Answer: Cold water is a better bet, says Marty Jaramillo, CEO of the I.C.E. Sports Health Group. "Immersing yourself in chilled water is like an ice pack for your entire body," he says.

When you exercise, your blood vessels open wider and stay that way for at least an hour afterward. Soreness occurs when waste products like lactic acid settle in your muscles through these dilated vessels. Colder temps constrict vessels, limiting the amount of waste product that accumulates, explains Jaramillo.

Cool the Pain -- with a Cold Bath

  • If you're feeling brave, fill your tub halfway with cold water and add a bucket of ice cubes.
  • Gradually submerge your body into the water to your waist.
  • Don't submerge your chest; the extreme temperature could cause injury.
  • Work up to soaking for 30 seconds to one minute (a cold shower won't yield the same results, but it will get you to stop fantasizing about Matthew McConaughey in boxer briefs).

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, June 2006.


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