European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 108, Issue 3, pp 599–606 | Cite as

Influence of cold water face immersion on post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation

  • Hani Al Haddad
  • Paul B. Laursen
  • Said Ahmaidi
  • Martin Buchheit
Original Article


The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of cold water face immersion on post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation, inferred from heart rate (HR) recovery (HRR) and HR variability (HRV) indices. Thirteen men performed, on two different occasions, an intermittent exercise (i.e., an all-out 30-s Wingate test followed by a 5-min run at 45% of the speed reached at the end of the 30–15 Intermittent Fitness test, interspersed with 5 min of seated recovery), randomly followed by 5 min of passive (seated) recovery with either cold water face immersion (CWFI) or control (CON). HR was recorded beat-to-beat and vagal-related HRV indices (i.e., natural logarithm of the high-frequency band, LnHF, and natural logarithm of the square root of the mean sum of squared differences between adjacent normal R–R intervals, Ln rMSSD) and HRR (e.g., heart beats recovered in the first minute after exercise cessation) were calculated for both recovery conditions. Parasympathetic reactivation was faster for the CWFI condition, as indicated by higher LnHF (P = 0.004), Ln rMSSD (P = 0.026) and HRR (P = 0.002) values for the CWFI compared with the CON condition. Cold water face immersion appears to be a simple and efficient means of immediately accelerating post-exercise parasympathetic reactivation.


Short-term recovery Autonomic nervous system Vagal-related indices Face immersion 



The authors thank Bachar Haidar for his helpful assistance with data collection and the participants for their enthusiastic collaboration.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hani Al Haddad
    • 1
  • Paul B. Laursen
    • 2
  • Said Ahmaidi
    • 1
  • Martin Buchheit
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Laboratory, EA-3300 Laboratory of Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Sport SciencesUniversity of PicardieAmiensFrance
  2. 2.School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health SciencesEdith Cowan UniversityJoondalupAustralia

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