Clearlight would like to remind users that this should not be taken as direct medical advice, and you should always consult a licensed health practitioner before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or existing pain treatment regimen.
With an infrared sauna, you’re tapping into a number of health benefits that would have otherwise gone unaddressed, but did you know that combining your time in a sauna with a cold shower can unlock even more positive physiological impacts on your body?
While it might not be the most comfortable of options, a growing body of scientific research is pointing to the fact that a cold plunge - immersing yourself in cool or cold water - be it in the form of a cold shower, an ice bath or a dive into the closest frozen lake available to you, is extremely beneficial to human health.
For hundreds of years, combining heat exposure with a cold plunge effect from cold water has been a go-to technique for a number of Scandinavian countries to unlock the health benefits of putting the body under stress from hot and cold temperatures.
In more modern times, we’ve had a growing body of evidence that points to the benefits of exposing the body to cold temperatures for a short amount of time, illustrating that the body can respond positively to both heat shock and cold shock in the right conditions.
Today we’re going to put all of that under the microscope, and find out what those conditions are to determine; how you can use a cold shower to enhance your sauna experience and unlock a number of benefits that you might not have been able to attain with your time in the sauna.
How To Incorporate A Cold Plunge Into Your Sauna Routine
Step One: Drink at least one litre of water before entering the sauna, and ensure you’re free of any symptoms potentially linked to dehydration.
Step Two: Step inside your sauna, and stay inside for at least twenty minutes for new users, or up to forty-five minutes for more experienced sauna users.
Step Three: End your sauna session, rehydrate, and towel off.
Step Four: For beginners, climb inside either a lukewarm or cool shower; turn off any hot water and try to stay inside for at least 30 seconds.
For intermediate users, step inside a cold shower and stay for at least 2 minutes. For experts, where applicable, add a bag of ice to a bathtub filled halfway with cold water, and stay inside for 2 minutes.
If you’d like to match elite-level athletes, stay inside the ice bath for anywhere between 5-10 minutes. Make sure you stay within your limits, though, and if your body is sending you signs that it’s had enough, you should respond to these by getting out of the cold and raising your core temperature once again.
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Benefits Of A Cold Shower
Cold showers have a number of advantages and benefits, namely, their ability to increase blood circulation, reduce muscle tension after exercising, consolidate the body’s immune system, reduce stress levels, increase alertness and even accelerate the body’s metabolism to aid in weight loss.
One randomized controlled trial published in the National Library of Medicine found that in a group of 3,000 workers, those that took cold showers were 29% less likely to require a sick day at work, suggesting a strong link between cold showers and strong immune system response.
Some of the lesser-known benefits of a cold shower are said to be for those that have conditions involving itchy skin, whereby a cold shower can help alleviate the urge to itch, as well as improvements to a person’s mood, and even better skin and hair quality.
Benefits Of A Cold Shower After Sauna
With the combination of exposure to both the heat from your sauna and the chilly embrace of a cold shower, users can experience a boosted array of benefits, including further improving circulation, muscle relaxation & recovery, reduction in inflammation, hypertension, and arthritic symptoms.
Is It Healthy To Go From A Sauna To Cold Water?
Scientists and medical practitioners say that it is safe and healthy to expose the body to both heat and cold shock, so long as you respect your body’s limits, and don’t have serious pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease.
There is one demographic that should steer clear of combining a sauna with a cold plunge, and that is anyone that has a pre-existing heart condition, or a cardiovascular condition that reacts to shocks.
This is due to the fact that when you immerse yourself in an environment with a drastically different temperature - be it an ice bath or a cold shower - this triggers a reaction inside the body.
Small temperature receptors in the body are triggered by the rapid change in temperature, which causes the body’s ‘diving reflex’ to be activated.
This diving reflex causes a sudden change to the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems, which, if you have a pre-existing condition, can prove extremely problematic.
Cold Plunge Benefits
The major benefits of a cold plunge are said to be the strengthening of your immune system, which gives your body a helping hand when it comes to fighting viruses and infections.
This is in addition to the improvements to the body’s respiratory, circulatory and cardiovascular systems that are all said to benefit from the combination of heat stimulation and the shock of a cold plunge.
The length of time you can spend in the cold is dependent on a few things, namely how experienced you are with a cold plunge, as well as examining just how cold that plunge is.
If you’re stepping out of a sauna and into a cool or cold shower, this is less likely to expose your body to a profound cold shock, and you can safely spend as much time in the shower as you’d like.
If you’re taking the cold plunge into an extremely cold body of water, or an ice bath, for example, it’s advised that you limit your time to two minutes up to anywhere around five minutes.
Elite-level athletes spend around ten-to-fifteen minutes in an ice bath after a sauna or prolonged workout, so if you’re interested in matching their records, make sure that you work up to this benchmark.