According to research, ice baths can be helpful — at least in comparison to doing nothing. In a new report in The Cochrane Library, researchers at the University of Ulster in Ireland pooled data from 17 studies involving 366 people, many of whom sat in ice baths for several minutes after cycling, running or lifting weights. Compared with passive rest after exercise, a short bout of cold therapy reduced soreness by 20 percent, the researchers found.
I have seen good results from ice bathing, especially last year when I was suffering from severe IT band syndrome. I don’t recommend staying in the water for very long, generally 7-10 minutes seems to be effective for me.
Another benefit I noticed from taking ice baths last year was that my tolerance for cold water swim training for triathlons were much better, specifically Bear Lake which is typically very cold, felt much warmer.
Another more subtle benefit from it I feel, greater mental toughness.
As the NY Times article states, there isn’t a ton of research on all the benefits nor side effects, but from my personal experience I have seen great results.