What’s Better For Exercise Pain: Ice Or Heat?

What's your go-to: Ice pack or toasty bath?

Karomaza |


Ice pack or toasty bath: which is the best for exercise pain? The right thermotherapy depends on your sitch. Check out our spectrum to bring on the ahhs…

1. Hot bath

Soaking in comfortably steamy water after endurance exercise (say, a marathon) can help your exhausted muscles regain strength faster, per a new study. The theory: heat helps your muscles utilise carbs afterwards (as fuel), speeding up the repair process.

Watch: The 4 Tightest Muscles – And Exactly How To Stretch Them

2. Heating pad

Chronic muscle aches, meet your match. A warming wrap increases circulation and feels more soothing than ice on an area that cramps or flares up regularly (e.g. hammies or lower back) during or after activity. Use it for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. Ed’s note: Try Deep Heat patches – they’re on sale at Dis-Chem right now.

Watch: 5 Easy Pilates Stretches That’ll Finally Sort Out Your Stiff Upper Back

3. Ice pack

Best for immediate post-exercise throbs or minor injuries, the frozen stuff can reduce swelling and numb pain in a localised spot – especially a joint, like a knee, hip or ankle. Apply within 30 minutes; remove after 15, then repeat.

Watch: How Can I Get A Good Stretch In My Lower Back?

4. Frosty tub

For intense workouts only (sprints, CrossFit). The ice moves blood to the body’s centre to keep your organs warm – when you get out, blood flows back extra hard to your extremities, promoting healing. Aim for 15 total minutes in three-minute intervals.

Watch ON: Fitness Fitness Advice