Unveiling the Hype: Cold Plunge and Sauna
You’ve seen it everywhere – people getting into ice baths and sweating it out in saunas. What is with all the hype, is it even worth it and do they complement each other? Let’s get down to it in today’s feature.
What is Contrast Therapy?
A name that speaks for itself, contrast therapy is a treatment that involves the process of exposing the body to both the heat and the cold for recovery purposes. Combining the cold plunge and sauna through contrast therapy offers unique benefits. By alternating between hot and cold therapy, blood vessels undergo vasoconstriction and vasodilation, promoting increased blood flow from internal organs to the skin’s surface. This enhanced blood flow delivers oxygen, nutrients, and efficiently removes muscle waste, leading to faster recovery, reduced soreness, and improved tissue health. Let’s take a closer look into what the heat and the cold does to our bodies.
Ice, Ice, Baby!
Cold plunges offer a range of benefits for overall well-being. Other than being great for recovery, scientific research and studies have shown that the cold:
1. Enhance focus and mental clarity: Cold exposure releases epinephrine and norepinephrine which increases alertness and energy levels.
2. Builds resilience and grit:
By willingly subjecting ourselves to the stress of cold exposure, we exert what is called ‘top-down control’ over our deeper brain centers. This ‘top-down control’ is the core of what we refer to as grit or resilience.
3. Boosts metabolism:
The cold activates brown adipose tissue (BAT). Research suggests that even a small amount of functionally active BAT can significantly increase metabolic rate and help prevent weight gain.
What is the recommended time for the cold plunge?
There are countless other benefits that come with taking the icy plunge, but the real question is how! According to Huberman Lab, there is no optimal temperature for an ice bath as everyone’s tolerance to cold differs, however the temperature should be kept below 10-15 degrees celsius. To achieve optimal results, incorporate deliberate cold exposure into your routine for a total of 11 minutes per week. That’s all you need. Spread it across 2-4 sessions lasting 1-5 minutes each.
It's Getting Hotter in Here
Beyond sweating the toxins out, saunas are scientifically proven to:
1. Boost cardiovascular health:
Regular sauna use reduces the risk of cardiovascular events and stroke-related deaths. Sauna sessions increase heart rate, improve blood flow, and expand blood vessels, mimicking the effects of cardiovascular exercise .
2. Boosts Growth Hormones:
Sauna usage boosts the release of Growth Hormone, which is essential for muscle growth, bone strengthening, tissue repair, and metabolism. This natural method helps counteract the age-related decline in Growth Hormone levels .
3. Enhances mood:
Heat triggers the release of dynorphins and endorphins in the brain, leading to an amplified mood boost. While dynorphins may initially cause discomfort, they create an optimal biochemical environment for the uplifting effects of endorphins, resulting in a gentle and joyful state of euphoria.
Recommended use of the sauna
All you need is a total of 1 hour per week, but not all at once. Rather, split it into 2 to 3 sessions. The sauna temperature should be between 80-100 degrees celsius for optimal results.
What is the Recommended Contrast Therapy bath time ratio?
Remember to aim for a minimum of 11 minutes in the cold plunge and 1 hour in the sauna per week. A suggested approach is to start with 10-15 minutes in the sauna followed by 2-3 minutes in the cold plunge. Adjust the timings and durations based on your body’s response and preferences, being mindful not to overexert yourself. Listen to your body and find the right balance for optimal benefits.
Due to the sudden changes in temperature, it is important for those who are pregnant, have heart problems, respiratory problems, and low or high blood pressure, to consult a doctor before using the cold plunge or sauna.
Is It Worth the Hype?
Indeed. Who knew dumping yourself in cold water and sweating it out right after could benefit your overall well being? Increased blood circulation, increased metabolic rate, efficient recovery, increased heart health…the list goes on and on! Thinking of jumping on the bandwagon? Trapeze Rec. Club offers both hot and cold recovery in our cold plunge and sauna. A private space that can host you and your recovery buddy, tucked away in a quaint tropical space. Try it out for yourself today and reap all the benefits of contrast therapy!
 Laukkanen, J. A., Laukkanen, T., & Kunutsor, S. K. (2018). Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 93(8), 1111-1121.
 Crandall, C. G., & Gonzalez-Alonso, J. (2010). Cardiovascular function in the heat-stressed human. Acta Physiologica, 199(4), 407-423.