Today, plenty of people follow their hot sauna relaxation with a cold plunge to promote faster recovery times, improve their mental health, and boost their energy levels. However, many are skeptical as to whether a sauna cold plunge actually does all of the above.
Looking for more information on this before you try cold therapy for yourself? In this article, we’ll cover what a sauna cold plunge routine is, how it works, and the benefits that encourage athletes to use it in the first place.
What is a Cold Plunge?
Cold plunges are also referred to as “cold water immersion,” which is a process where you literally immerse your whole body in freezing cold water. You can take a hot sauna cold plunge by taking a dip in cold water or a cold shower once you finish a hot sauna, though some cold shower enthusiasts prefer to take an ice bath.
This cold plunging technique is said to offer increased blood flow and relieve muscle soreness. It’s often used by athletes and other fitness enthusiasts who are looking to quickly recover after a training session or workout. However, some people simply try this cold water dip to give their bodies a challenge to overcome, not chasing any changes in their blood flow, blood pressure, or other health benefits.
While you may have just recently seen an influx in the number of people taking up cold plunges, it’s actually known as an ancient practice. Hippocrates, a Greek physician, thought that cold plunges could help to provide relief from fatigue. In the 1700s, cold plunges were also recommended by doctors for treating fever and other conditions.
How Does This Hot and Cold Technique Work?
There are two halves to this practice: hot and cold. For your sauna cold plunge to truly be an extreme temperature change, you’ll need to first raise your core body temperature with an intense workout followed by heat therapy in a sauna. However, your cold plunging technique will be ruined if you cool off while setting up your ice bath. This is why we recommend setting up ice baths before your sauna sessions.
There are many ways to get set up for a hot sauna and cold plunge. An ice bath is a popular option; fill your tub with cold water and add some ice cubes. For a simpler cold plunging technique, you can reap the health benefits of extreme temperature change by simply running a cold shower. If you want to go into this with as little prep as possible and you’re lucky enough to have access to a natural body of water during the winter, you could also hop in there for increased blood flow and improved skin health.
Most cold shower enthusiasts maintain that the water should be between 10 – 15 degrees Celsius and they should spend around five to 15 minutes soaking in the freezing water.
What are the Benefits of a Cold Plunge?
On its own, cold plunging is linked to the mental and physical benefits below:
Increased Energy Levels and Happiness
For most people, a quick espresso shot or a nice cup of hot chai is what they need to start their morning energized, but cold plunges offer a healthier alternative. Studies show that the cold water you’re exposed to will shock the body, producing heat shock proteins and norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine is a hormone that sharpens our focus, boosts our energy levels, and regulates our anxiety and mood. So, not only will a nice cold water dip wake you up in the morning, but it’ll also make sure that you’re awake and alert for a calm and happy day.
Muscle Pain Relief
If you work out a lot, cold water immersion could be the answer to your problems with soreness recovery. Sauna heat is soothing on its own, but a hot sauna cold plunge offers unmatched recovery from muscle soreness.
Boosts the Immune System
Cold immersion can have profound effects on the immune system, boosting the count of our white blood cells as our bodies react to the sudden drop in temperature. Over time, our bodies can become more adept at activating stronger defenses against harsh conditions like extreme temperatures.
What are the Health Benefits of a Cold Plunge After Using a Sauna?
There is also a wide range of benefits to the hot and cold technique we’ve discussed above, including:
Improved Blood Flow
As your body adjusts to a hot sauna cold plunge routine, blood vessels shrink and bring blood closer to the organs while in the ice bath. Once you step out of the water, each blood vessel will open up again and migrate through the body, improving your blood flow.
In fact, after a hot sauna cold plunge, your improved blood flow should last for the rest of the day!
Reduced Blood Pressure
Exercising and going for power walks are known to reduce high blood pressure and boost your heart health at the same time. Fascinatingly enough, a hot sauna cold plunge routine may be able to do the same, allowing us to reap the same benefits and avoid high blood pressure.
Aiding Muscle Recovery
The improvement of your circulation through cold therapy can speed up the process of muscle recovery after you engage in physical activities. As such, cold immersion can be highly beneficial for athletes who wish to improve their performance.
Cold plunges can also counteract the consequences of overusing the muscles, such as tightness, soreness, and pain. Furthermore, the cold slightly numbs nerve endings to deliver relief from pain, making cold plunges great after workouts.
Inflammation and Joint Pain Relief
People who have conditions related to inflammation could experience joint relief using a hot sauna cold plunge routine. This is especially useful for athletes who suffer from swelling on their legs and feet; the sudden drop in temperature from the cold plunge can help them recover faster.
Taking a cold plunge right after finishing a hot sauna session shocks the body, triggering lymphatic circulation. This allows the body to flush out abnormal cells, bacteria, and other matter from the bloodstream.
Because of this flushing effect, you can quickly eliminate waste from the body, effectively detoxifying and ensuring that nothing harmful is left lingering in your bloodstream.
How Often Should You Cold Plunge After Using a Hot Sauna?
When combined together, a cold plunge and a hot sauna can help our mitochondrial, vascular, and mental health at the molecular level. However, it’s important to remember that you will be exposing your body to temperature shock, so you must take precautions to stay safe.
Creating a minimum threshold for exposure every week is the most essential part of your contrast routine. While you’re first adjusting to this routine, we recommend beginning with 20 minutes in the hot sauna followed by three to five minutes in your cold plunge.
Others bookend their time with cold plunges, taking a cold plunge for two to three minutes both before and after a 20-minute sauna session. No matter which routine you choose, it’s important that you always end up in a cold plunge for the best results.
Remember that your temperatures don’t have to be too cold or too hot to reap the full effect of cold therapy. Your cold temperature can be uncomfortable to the touch, but it must always be safe. Any temperature that’s colder than 66˚ F can break down fat and activate insulin sensitivity, so it doesn’t have to be ice water for you to benefit from it. Your hot temperature should stay between 120˚ F – 140˚ F to make sure that you don’t get too hot. Be sure to keep a log of the durations of your stays as well as the temperatures — an infrared thermometer can help with these.
Purchase Your Own Sauna Today and Hop in a Cold Shower to Enjoy the Cold Plunge Treatment!
Our team at The Sauna Life works hard to deliver sauna solutions wherever they’re needed so we can share our passion for health and wellness. We are dedicated to connecting sauna lovers with the tools they can use to achieve their goals.
If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with our team through our website so you can experience a new kind of therapy.