Skip to main content

The effect of post-exercise hydrotherapy on subsequent exercise performance and heart rate variability

Abstract

We investigated the effect of hydrotherapy on time-trial performance and cardiac parasympathetic reactivation during recovery from intense training. On three occasions, 18 well-trained cyclists completed 60 min high-intensity cycling, followed 20 min later by one of three 10-min recovery interventions: passive rest (PAS), cold water immersion (CWI), or contrast water immersion (CWT). The cyclists then rested quietly for 160 min with R–R intervals and perceptions of recovery recorded every 30 min. Cardiac parasympathetic activity was evaluated using the natural logarithm of the square root of mean squared differences of successive R–R intervals (ln rMSSD). Finally, the cyclists completed a work-based cycling time trial. Effects were examined using magnitude-based inferences. Differences in time-trial performance between the three trials were trivial. Compared with PAS, general fatigue was very likely lower for CWI (difference [90% confidence limits; −12% (−18; −5)]) and CWT [−11% (−19; −2)]. Leg soreness was almost certainly lower following CWI [−22% (−30; −14)] and CWT [−27% (−37; −15)]. The change in mean ln rMSSD following the recovery interventions (ln rMSSDPost-interv) was almost certainly higher following CWI [16.0% (10.4; 23.2)] and very likely higher following CWT [12.5% (5.5; 20.0)] compared with PAS, and possibly higher following CWI [3.7% (−0.9; 8.4)] compared with CWT. The correlations between performance, ln rMSSDPost-interv and perceptions of recovery were unclear. A moderate correlation was observed between ln rMSSDPost-interv and leg soreness [r = −0.50 (−0.66; −0.29)]. Although the effects of CWI and CWT on performance were trivial, the beneficial effects on perceptions of recovery support the use of these recovery strategies.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  • Al Haddad H, Laursen P, Chollet D, Lemaitre F, Ahmaidi S, Buchheit M (2010) Effect of cold or thermoneutral water immersion on post-exercise heart rate recovery and heart rate variability indices. Auto Neurosci 156(1–2):111–116

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett A (2006) Using recovery modalities between training sessions in elite athletes: does it help? Sports Med 36:781–796

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bleakley CM, Davison GW (2010) What is the biochemical and physiological rationale for using cold-water immersion in sports recovery? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med 44:179–187

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bloomfield DM, Magnano A, Bigger JT Jr, Rivadeneira H, Parides M, Steinman RC (2001) Comparison of spontaneous vs. metronome-guided breathing on assessment of vagal modulation using RR variability. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 280:H1145–H1150

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Buchheit M, Gindre C (2006) Cardiac parasympathetic regulation: respective associations with cardiorespiratory fitness and training load. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 291:H451–H458

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Buchheit M, Laursen PB (2009) Treatment of hyperthermia: is assessment of cooling efficiency enough? Exp Physiol 94:627–629

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Buchheit M, Laursen PB, Ahmaidi S (2007) Parasympathetic reactivation after repeated sprint exercise. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 293:H133–H141

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Buchheit M, Peiffer JJ, Abbiss CR, Laursen PB (2009) Effect of cold water immersion on postexercise parasympathetic reactivation. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 296:H421–H427

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Buchheit M, Chivot A, Parouty J, Mercier D, Al Haddad H, Laursen PB, Ahmaidi S (2010) Monitoring endurance running performance using cardiac parasympathetic function. Eur J Appl Physiol 108:1153–1167

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burke L (2006) Nutrition for recovery after training and competition. In: Burke L, Deakin V (eds) Clinical sports nutrition. McGraw-Hill, North Ryde, pp 415–453

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for behavioral sciences. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale

    Google Scholar 

  • Crowe MJ, O’Connor D, Rudd D (2007) Cold water recovery reduces anaerobic performance. Int J Sports Med 28:994–998

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Currell K, Jeukendrup AE (2008) Superior endurance performance with ingestion of multiple transportable carbohydrates. Med Sci Sports Exerc 40:275–281

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gabrielsen A, Warberg J, Christensen NJ, Bie P, Stadeager C, Pump B, Norsk P (2000) Arterial pulse pressure and vasopressin release during graded water immersion in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 278:R1583–R1588

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Garet M, Tournaire N, Roche F, Laurent R, Lacour JR, Barthélémy JC, Pichot V (2004) Individual interdependence between nocturnal ANS activity and performance in swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36:2112–2118

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Halson SL, Jeukendrup AE (2004) Does overtraining exist? An analysis of overreaching and overtraining research. Sports Med 34:967–981

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Halson S, Quod MJ, Martin DT, Gardner AS, Ebert TR, Laursen PB (2008) Physiological responses to cold water immersion following cycling in the heat. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 3:331–346

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hautala AJ, Tulppo MP, Mäkikallio TH, Laukkanen R, Nissilä S, Huikuri HV (2001) Changes in cardiac autonomic regulation after prolonged maximal exercise. Clin Physiol 21:238–245

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Higgins D, Kaminski TW (1998) Contrast therapy does not cause fluctuations in human gastrocnemius intramuscular temperature. J Athl Train 33:336–340

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hjortskov N, Rissén D, Blangsted A, Fallentin N, Lundberg U, Søgaard K (2004) The effect of mental stress on heart rate variability and blood pressure during computer work. Eur J Appl Physiol 92:84–89

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hopkins WG (2006) Spreadsheets for analysis of controlled trials with adjustment for a subject characteristic. Sportscience 10:46–50 (sportsci.org/2006/wghcontrial.htm)

    Google Scholar 

  • Hopkins WG, Marshall SW, Batterham AM, Hanin J (2009) Progressive statistics for studies in sports medicine and exercise science. Med Sci Sports Exerc 41:3–13

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jeukendrup AE, Saris WHM, Brouns F, Kester ADM (1996) A new validated endurance performance test. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28:266–270

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lane KN, Wenger HA (2004) Effect of selected recovery conditions on performance of repeated bouts of intermittent cycling separated by 24 hours. J Strength Cond Res 18:855–860

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Mair SD, Seaber AV, Glisson RR, Garrett WE (1996) The role of fatigue in susceptibility to acute muscle strain injury. Am J Sports Med 24:137–143

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V (2009) Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol 106:857–864

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miwa C, Sugiyama Y, Mano T, Iwase S, Matsukawa T (1997) Sympatho-vagal responses in humans to thermoneutral head-out water immersion. Aviat Space Environ Med 68:1109–1114

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Montgomery PG, Pyne DB, Hopkins WG, Dorman JC, Cook K, Minahan CL (2008) The effect of recovery strategies on physical performance and cumulative fatigue in competitive basketball. J Sports Sci 26:1135–1145

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mourot L, Bouhaddi M, Gandelin E, Cappelle S, Dumoulin G, Wolf JP, Rouillon JD, Regnard J (2008) Cardiovascular autonomic control during short-term thermoneutral and cool head-out immersion. Aviat Space Environ Med 79:14–20

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Myllymäki T, Kyröläinen H, Savolainen K, Hokka L, Jakonen R, Juuti T, Martinmäki K, Kaartinen J, Kinnunen M, Rusko H (2010) Effects of vigorous late-night exercise on sleep quality and cardiac autonomic activity. J Sleep Res (Epub ahead of print). doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2010.00874.x

  • Park KS, Choi JK, Park YS (1999) Cardiovascular regulation during water immersion. Appl Human Sci 18:233–241

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Parouty J, Al Haddad H, Quod M, Leprêtre PM, Ahmaidi S, Buchheit M (2010) Effect of cold water immersion on 100-m sprint performance in well-trained swimmers. Eur J Appl Physiol 109:483–490

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Peiffer J, Abbiss C, Watson G, Nosaka K, Laursen P (2009) Effect of cold-water immersion duration on body temperature and muscle function. J Sports Sci 27:987–993

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Penttilä J, Helminen A, Jartti T, Kuusela T, Huikuri H, Tulppo M, Coffeng R, Scheinin H (2001) Time domain, geometrical and frequency domain analysis of cardiac vagal outflow: effects of various respiratory patterns. Clin Physiol 21:365–376

    Google Scholar 

  • Perini R, Orizio C, Baselli G, Cerutti S, Veicsteinas A (1990) The influence of exercise intensity on the power spectrum of heart rate variability. Eur J Appl Physiol 61:143–148

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Schniepp J, Campbell TS, Powell KL, Pincivero DM (2002) The effects of cold-water immersion on power output and heart rate in elite cyclists. J Strength Cond Res 16:561–566

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Seiler KS, Kjerland GØ (2006) Quantifying training intensity distribution in elite endurance athletes: is there evidence for an “optimal” distribution? Scand J Med Sci Sports 16:49–56

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seiler S, Haugen O, Kuffel E (2007) Autonomic recovery after exercise in trained athletes: intensity and duration effects. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39:1366–1373

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Task-Force (1996) Heart rate variability: standards of measurement, physiological interpretation, and clinical use. Circulation 93:1043–1065

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vaile J, Halson S, Gill N, Dawson B (2008) Effect of hydrotherapy on recovery from fatigue. Int J Sports Med 29:539–544

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Vaile J, O’Hagan C, Stefanovic B, Walker M, Gill N, Askew CD (2010) Effect of cold water immersion on repeated cycling performance and limb blood flow. Br J Sports Med (Epub ahead of print). doi:10.1136/bjsm.2009.067272

  • Versey N, Halson S, Dawson B (2011) Effect of contrast water therapy duration on recovery of cycling performance: a dose-response study. Eur J Appl Physiol 111:37–46

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vianna LC, Oliveira RB, Silva BM, Ricardo DR, Araujo CGS (2008) Water intake accelerates post-exercise cardiac vagal reactivation in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 102:283–288

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yeargin SW, Casa DJ, McClung JM, Knight JC, Healey JC, Goss PJ, Harvard WR, Hipp GR (2006) Body cooling between two bouts of exercise in the heat enhances subsequent performance. J Strength Cond Res 20:383–389

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the athletes for their generous time commitment and effort throughout the study. This study was supported by the Centre of Excellence for Applied Sports Science Research at the Queensland Academy of Sport, Brisbane.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jamie Stanley.

Additional information

Communicated by Narihiko Kondo.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stanley, J., Buchheit, M. & Peake, J.M. The effect of post-exercise hydrotherapy on subsequent exercise performance and heart rate variability. Eur J Appl Physiol 112, 951–961 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-2052-7

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-2052-7

Keywords

  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Post-exercise recovery
  • Time trial
  • Water immersion