Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation

Document Type

Journal Article


American Physiological Society


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research




Buchheit, M., Peiffer, J. J., Abbiss, C. R., & Laursen, P. B. (2009). Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 296(2), H421-H427. Available here


The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of cold water immersion (CWI) on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation. Ten male cyclists (age, 29 ± 6 yr) performed two repeated supramaximal cycling exercises (SE1 and SE2) interspersed with a 20-min passive recovery period, during which they were randomly assigned to either 5 min of CWI in 14°C or a control (N) condition where they sat in an environmental chamber (35.0 ± 0.3°C and 40.0 ± 3.0% relative humidity). Rectal temperature (Tre) and beat-to-beat heart rate (HR) were recorded continuously. The time constant of HR recovery (HRRτ) and a time (30-s) varying vagal-related HR variability (HRV) index (rMSSD30s) were assessed during the 6-min period immediately following exercise. Resting vagal-related HRV indexes were calculated during 3-min periods 2 min before and 3 min after SE1 and SE2. Results showed no effect of CWI on Tre (P = 0.29), SE performance (P = 0.76), and HRRτ (P = 0.61). In contrast, all vagal-related HRV indexes were decreased after SE1 (P < 0.001) and tended to decrease even further after SE2 under N condition but not with CWI. When compared with the N condition, CWI increased HRV indexes before (P < 0.05) and rMSSD30s after (P < 0.05) SE2. Our study shows that CWI can significantly restore the impaired vagal-related HRV indexes observed after supramaximal exercise. CWI may serve as a simple and effective means to accelerate parasympathetic reactivation during the immediate period following supramaximal exercise.



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