Would you take the plunge? Ice baths are becoming mainstream in Singapore | Inquirer News

Would you take the plunge? Ice baths are becoming mainstream in Singapore

/ 01:50 PM July 23, 2023

 Ice baths are becoming mainstream in Singapore

Ice bath product provider Tundra Ice Bath has seen a 300 percent increase in sales from Q1 to Q2 in 2023. PHOTO: TUNDRA ICE BATH via The Straits Times/Asia News Network

SINGAPORE – When influencer Chow Jia Hui took her first dip in an ice bath at a local wellness center, she was utterly stunned by the frigid water.

“I felt a pain jolt throughout my body, yet I fought the knee-jerk reaction to hop right out of the bath, and my first attempt lasted a grand 13 seconds,” said the 26-year-old.


“In a slightly masochistic manner, I enjoyed the challenge the ice bath posed to my mind and body. I liked fighting the instinct to get out of the tub and I pushed myself hard to stay on.”


On TikTok, the hashtags #coldplunge and #icebath are blowing up with around 1.2 billion and 2.6 billion views, respectively. Users range from the seasoned cold-plunge devotees to the curious and jittery beginners documenting their experience.

More Singaporeans like Ms Chow are plunging into icy cold water – encouraged by social media and endorsements from celebrities such as Hollywood actors Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Hemsworth, as well as drawn to the treatment’s promises of reduced inflammation, enhanced recovery from physical exertion, and improved immune function, among other health benefits.

Commonly used in athletes’ post-training recovery regimen, ice baths – also known as cold plunge or cold water immersion – usually involve immersing one’s body in ice water at temperatures ranging from 10 deg C to 15 deg C for 10 to 15 minutes, according to orthopedic surgeon Wang Mingchang from the National University Hospital.

At local ice baths, temperatures can dip to near-freezing levels at around 3 deg C.

Among six health and wellness businesses that The Sunday Times reached out to, four of them started offering cold plunges in the last two years. The other two establishments have been running ice bath services for around three to four years.

These businesses report a growing demand for the treatment.


Wellness centre Soma Haus said it has seen quarter-on-quarter increases in the number of ice bath bookings since July 2022.

Tundra Ice Bath said that its rental of ice bath products such as tubs and accessories “has seen overwhelming demand and is fully booked for the next few months”. It reported a 300 per cent increase in the number of ice bath products sold from the first to second quarter of 2023.

Mr Chun Yih Tan, founder of ice bath provider Hyperactiv, has also witnessed an increase in demand for ice bath appointments, from 300 in 2021 to 550 in 2022.

According to some ice bath providers and enthusiasts, one should stay in an ice bath for between two and 10 minutes at a stretch, depending on the temperature.

Appointments for ice baths at establishments in Singapore are as long as 30 to 60 minutes, and users are advised to take breaks between dips. Each session costs from $42 to $115.

Avid ice bath enthusiast Samuel Tan, 25, has been committed to the plunge since 2022.

Mr Tan, who first heard about ice baths during his national service days, admitted he hated his first dip when he was in the navy.

“It was a terribly painful experience,” said Mr Tan, who is studying international development at King’s College London.

But after listening to a Spotify podcast on the purported benefits of ice baths by Dr Andrew Huberman, an American neuroscientist and professor in the department of neurobiology at the Stanford School of Medicine, Mr Tan steeled himself to make ice baths a part of his routine.

To train himself for regular ice baths, he took morning showers in the United Kingdom winter without switching on the heater. As he grew accustomed to the extreme cold, he added monthly ice baths to his routine.

“I absolutely love it, though I hate the first 90 seconds,” he said. Since he started taking ice baths once a month, he says that he has seen a difference in his body.

“I have experienced significant positive effects on my mood, productivity and immunity – I am able to stay alert and focused for longer periods of time and find myself falling sick less often on average,” said the 25-year-old.

Despite anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of ice baths, medical experts agree that the claims are not scientifically proven.

The wisdom behind taking ice baths is to reduce muscle soreness caused by inflammation in the muscles after intense exercise.

“Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, slowing blood flow and relieving swelling and inflammation. The cold also slows down nerve conduction speeds and may reduce pain perception,” said Dr Wang.

He added that “some people may find that the sudden cold sensation helps them become more alert and focused”, but said that research findings on the benefits of ice baths for post-exercise recovery and general health are mixed.

National ultimate frisbee athlete Joel Ang, 22, said that the ice baths he took after his matches at the recent World Under-24 Ultimate Championships “definitely helped with recovery”.

The National University of Singapore data science and analytics student added: “Usually, I would feel sore the day after intense training sessions and competitions.

“Though I don’t feel the effects of the ice bath immediately, I notice that (taking an ice bath) helps to ease my muscle aches the next day.”

Adjunct Associate Professor Roger Tian from Changi General Hospital has a word of caution for those considering taking ice baths – people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and heart disease should avoid the treatment.

“The decrease in body temperature can lead to the narrowing of blood vessels and a slowing of the blood flow in the body, which in turn can lead to a dramatic increase in blood pressure and trigger a heart attack or stroke,” he said.

Beyond the purported health benefits, Ms Chow saw ice baths as a test of mental tenacity.

“It was a truly testing experience,” she said. “When I slowly slid into the tub, I was completely surprised, because the cold was like nothing I had experienced before”.

But she is more hesitant about plunging herself in ice-cold water again due to the hefty price tag, saying that she “wouldn’t go out of my way to do it”.

In jest, the influencer said if she wanted to test her mental strength, she could attempt “an A-level H2 Maths paper or something”.

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TAGS: Health, Singapore

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