Why You Should be Getting Cold & Hot: Sauna and Cold Plunges
You most likely have heard about saunas, steam rooms, cold plunges, ice baths, or other temperature controlled environments within wellness centers as they have gained popularity in recent years. But, why are these treatments gaining popularity? How do we know which treatment is right for us? Can these these treatments be used together within a wellness regimen? We are here to answer these questions!
Why Cold Therapy?
Cold therapy is a natural, effective way to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, improve your cognitive function, aid in better sleep, and enhance energy in daily life. It’s also been shown to help athletes recover faster, which is why many professional athletes use it as part of their training regimen. But cold therapy isn’t just for the pros—you can reap benefits from it too.
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection. It’s important because it may help prevent further damage and lead to muscle development, but it can also cause pain and stiffness for an over-extended period of time. Cold therapy reduces inflammation by constricting blood vessels within the muscles, in turn reducing swelling and pain.
Immunity refers to the body’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria that make you sick. White blood cells are produced by the body to fight infections, cold therapy stimulates the production of these cells. Lymph nodes filter out bacteria from your blood and when the body experiences an immersion in the cold, the lymphatic system contracts and drains.
So, by improving circulation and boosting various parts of our immune system, we can improve our overall health and potentially prevent infection!
Cold Water Plunges
The best way to start a cold plunge is by getting into an ice bath or a pool with cold water and staying there for a few minutes, or the length you have been recommended by your medical doctor.
We will cover the specifics of starting your cold plunge journey at home:
- Ice Baths – In this method, you sit or lie in a tub of ice water (usually 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit) for 3 to 15 minutes while wearing minimal to no clothing The goal is to get as much surface area as possible exposed to the freezing temperature so that every part of your body is equally saturated.
- Cold Showers – This method uses running water instead of a full body immersion; however, cold showers are still effective at providing anti-inflammatory effects and may be more convenient for the general population. After your shower at your preferred temperature, you can simply turn your faucet to the coldest setting and rinse for at least 2 minutes.
Why Hot Therapy?
Heat therapy is a great way to stimulate the body’s natural healing and recovery processes. Heat treatments have been used for centuries to treat injuries, as well as other disorders including arthritis and bursitis. Similar to cold therapy, heat brings blood flow into inflamed areas.
Heat-Shock Proteins (HSPs) are proteins that are produced to help repair damaged cells. They’re triggered by exposure to heat, which is why they’re often referred to as “heat shock proteins.” They aid in muscle growth and recovery as well as reducing inflammation.
In addition to HSPs, heat treatment can also promote muscle growth by increasing protein synthesis (the process by which muscle tissue builds). This effect is most pronounced when combined with resistance training; however it can still be beneficial even if you’re not working out!
We recommend entering a sauna at 165 degrees fahrenheit, and sitting for 10 to 15 minutes. This is an excellent way to recover after a workout or from a stressful day. If you do not have access to a sauna at your local gym or recreation center, try taking a warm shower and sitting in the steam for an extended period of time!
Contrast Therapies (alternate between hot and cold treatments)
Contrast therapies re a great way to maximize recovery and recovery time. You can use contrast therapy for a variety of conditions including: muscle fatigue or soreness, arthritis pain, sprains and strains, or autoimmune responses.
To use contrast therapy at home, simply alternate between hot and cold baths or showers for about 10 minutes at a time, ending your alternations with the cold shower. In a wellness center setting, we would highly recommend spending a few minutes in a cold plunge, then alternating to the sauna for 15 minutes, before returning to the cold plunge and ending the experience there.
For optimal results, complete this regimen after a high intensity workout!
So, what are you waiting for? Get started on your hot and cold therapy journey today!