How-To and Top Benefits of Sauna and Cold Plunge Therapy

How-To and Top Benefits of Sauna and Cold Plunge Therapy

Incorporating sauna and cold plunge sessions into your wellness routine can be truly life-changing! However, the key to benefiting from this practice is learning how to do it correctly. After all, exposing our bodies to heat and cold can be quite shocking at first, which is why we need to follow some rules.

As such, if you want to learn more about sauna and cold plunge therapy, keep reading! We've prepared a comprehensive guide with tips and tricks and will also mention the benefits you'll enjoy after incorporating this practice into your routine!

Key Takeaways

  • Sauna and cold plunge practice is a type of contrast therapy that implies repeatedly exposing our bodies to extreme temperatures.
  • Sauna and cold plunge therapy, rooted in Nordic tradition, can potentially enhance circulation, improve our immune system, boost metabolism, and aid fat loss.
  • Regular practice of transitioning between sauna heat and cold water exposure can reduce inflammation and pain, alleviate post-workout soreness, and improve mental well-being by reducing stress and enhancing mood.
  • Before trying sauna and cold plunge therapy, you should consult your healthcare provider to ensure there are no safety concerns or risks.

Exploring Contrast Therapy: Sauna and Cold Plunge Basics

Taking cold plunges right after a sauna session is usually labeled as contrast therapy. People often call this practice the Nordic Cycle, as it has been used in the Nordic countries for centuries to boost the immune system and improve various bodily functions.

This therapy implies exposing your body to hot and cold temperatures over several cycles. These cycles trigger multiple physiological reactions that can leave a positive mark on our bodies.

That was the short answer, of course! If you want to discover more about contrast therapy, keep reading!

The Art of Contrast Therapy: How It Works

Contrast therapy is, first and foremost, linked with our circulatory system - the heart, the blood, and the blood vessels. Why so? Because this cyclic alteration between extreme temperatures causes our blood vessels to open or close.

Blood vessels are responsible for supplying our organs and tissues with oxygen and nutrients. They also play an important role in getting rid of waste products. As such, their strength and proper function are of utmost importance for our well-being. So, what exactly happens when we switch from sauna to cold plunging and vice versa?

Well, cold temperatures cause our blood vessels to close. Scientifically, this is called vasoconstriction and is characterized by faster heartbeat and higher blood pressure.

In contrast, hot temperatures cause our blood vessels to open, in which case it's called vasodilation. This causes our heart rate to slow and our blood pressure to decrease.

So what is the result of this sudden switch from hot to cold temperatures and vice-versa? A kind of pumping effect. It causes increased blood circulation that affects the whole body.

In most cases, this pumping effect leads to positive outcomes, which we'll discuss below. Sometimes, however, contrast therapy may cause adverse reactions, particularly in people with certain health issues. No need to worry, though, because we'll discuss everything you need to know about this! But first, let's outline some basic contrast hot and cold therapy rules.

Duration and Timing

To fully leverage the benefits of sauna and cold plunges, you need to perfect the technique. It's a mix of timing, acclimation, and conscious breathing. The first and most important rule of thumb is not to overdo your first sessions.

Beginners can start with a 15-minute sauna session, then switch to a brief 1- or 2-minute cold plunge. However, if you're unsure you can take that much time in cold water, you can start with only 15-30 seconds. Just listen to your body, and you'll know how much it can withstand. You can gradually extend to 20-25 minutes in the sauna and up to 5 minutes in the cold as the body adapts.

The goal is to repeat this hot-cold alternating cycle 2-3 times, depending on how you feel, and finish with a cold plunge.

Sauna bathing is recommended for both mornings and evenings. It can improve mental acuity and simultaneously relax and prepare us for sleep. However, if you combine sauna with cold plunges, you should definitely incorporate it into your morning routine. Otherwise, you may not get your well-deserved night's sleep!

You can repeat this practice 2-3 times a week if you're just starting. Over time, you may be able to incorporate it into your daily routine if that's your goal.


Another crucial thing to master before stepping into the sauna and cold plunge therapy realm is learning everything about desired temperatures.

The sauna’s ideal range is 150-175°F (65.5-79.4°C). However, humidity levels are just as important when it comes to sauna bathing. That's why specialists recommend following the Rule of 200. It implies that the sum of temperature and humidity should equal 200. This means you can alternate between temperatures and humidity levels until you find the perfect balance that suits your body.

When it comes to the cold plunge, the recommended temperature for maximum benefits sits between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15°C). However, people already used to cold water therapy prefer the lower end of 41-50°F (5-10°C). As such, if you're a beginner, you can start with higher temperatures and gradually lower them until you reach your goal!

The Safe Way to Sauna and Cold Plunge

Just like with any wellness routine, safety holds the utmost importance in sauna and cold plunge therapy. Here are some tips on how to perform it without risking any side effects:

  • Confirm with a healthcare professional that it's safe to practice this therapy. Contrast therapy is usually not recommended for people with infected wounds, acute inflammation or injury, high blood pressure, heart issues, local malignancies, peripheral vascular disease, or impaired sensation.
  • Stay well-hydrated before, during, and after the therapy.
  • Listen to your body, and don't push yourself too hard.
  • Have someone accompany you, especially if it's your first session.
  • Learn how to practice breathing exercises. They will tremendously help during a cold plunge.
  • Make sure that the sauna and cold plunge units are as close to each other as possible.
  • Finish each cycle with a cold plunge.
  • Let your body warm up naturally after finishing your contrast therapy.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before therapy.

Benefits of Sauna and Cold Plunges

Embarking on a sauna and cold plunging adventure offers a myriad of health benefits, including:

  • Immune system fortification
  • Metabolic enhancement
  • Pain relief
  • Muscle recovery

The combined forces of the hot and cold technique work to optimize physical and psychological well-being.

Let’s explore these transformative effects and reveal the science underpinning the heat and chill!

Metabolic Boost and Fat Loss

The goal of many is to get rid of the excessive, unhealthy white fat, right?! The brown fat, on the other hand, is the one our body needs, so we have to contribute to its activation. Why so? Because it generates heat through calorie burning or, in other words, it burns energy and boosts our metabolism.

Contrast therapy, in this case, sauna and cold plunges, can have a significant impact on this process because brown fat is activated when we feel cold. It basically burns calories to keep us warm. Since our body temperature rises when we're in the sauna, the effect of a cold plunge taken right after is enhanced as well.

A study aimed at understanding how the body reacts to a combination of dips in chilly water and sauna sessions showed the following: "Regular winter swimming combining cold dips with hot sauna might be a strategy to increase energy expenditure, which could result in weight loss if compensatory increase in food intake can be avoided."

Pain Relief and Reduced Inflammation

Contrast therapy has long been associated with pain relief and inflammation because adequate blood flow and a healthy circulatory system play a major role in keeping our tissues healthy. As such, it is often recommended as a pain relief therapy.

For example, a review study focusing on osteoarthritis knee management confirmed that contrast therapy is beneficial in reducing pain and inflammation. Why so? Because the pumping effect we've mentioned above improves blood flow and, therefore, helps remove metabolic waste. In addition, it strengthens the muscles, which, in turn, stabilize the knee joint. If combined with physical therapy exercises, such as stretching or balance training, contrast therapy can do wonders!

As such, alternating between sauna sessions and cold plunging in repeated cycles can be beneficial for various conditions associated with pain and inflammation. Nonetheless, we strongly recommend checking with your doctor beforehand. The duration and temperature of your heat-cold sessions may vary depending on the health issue you're dealing with.

Post-Workout Soreness Relief

You've already felt the soreness that sets a few hours after a workout, right?! The one that makes it so hard to get out of bed the next day! Well, what if we told you that sauna and cold plunges can help mitigate this inflammation and tenderness, thus fostering a quicker healing process?

This effect is achieved through the vasoconstriction and vasodilation mentioned above. Specialists believe that ending contrast therapy with a cold session is extremely important in avoiding post-workout soreness because the damaged area is left with reduced blood flow. This limits inflammation and edema.

In addition, contrast therapy (particularly, hot sauna and cold plunging or an ice bath) has been associated with lower creatine kinase (CK) values and plasma concentration. The lower these two, the lower the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Enhanced Immune System and Better Overall Health

Exposure to heat and cold is thought to play a role in the synthesis of heat shock proteins (HSP). They are usually induced when the body is exposed to stressful conditions. Their goal is to protect cells from stress. Since exposure to heat and cold triggers a stress reaction, it can potentially induce the synthesis of heat shock proteins. Their proper function can, in turn, boost our immune system and improve our overall health, including the cardiovascular and neurological systems.

Achieving Balance: Sauna and Cold for Mental Well-Being

The benefits of the Nordic cycle extend beyond the physical realm, touching the shores of mental well-being! Sauna bathing is associated with the release of beta-endorphins, which are said to be responsible for the well-known post-workout euphoria.

On the other hand, cold exposure triggers the sympathetic nervous system. In other words, it activates our fight-or-flight response to stress, which can help with long-term stress management. Then, your parasympathetic nervous system takes the lead by relaxing the body and inducing a feeling of calmness.

Therefore, studies confirm that alternating between hot sauna and cold water can induce a state known as totonou in Japan - a feeling of relaxation, clarity of mind, and intense happiness. This is achieved particularly through alternating three times between hot and cold. In addition, specialists suggest that before reentering the sauna, it is advisable to have a bit of outdoor rest, which enhances this totonou state.

Furthermore, cold plunging implies mastering breathing exercises, which can help the body get used to the cold faster. This further improves one's mental health - the benefits of breathing exercises are countless!

Moreover, a meditation session right after a hot sauna and an ice bath routine can also have a positive impact on your mental health.

The Science of Skin: Sauna and Cold Plunge Effects

Turning our attention to the body’s largest organ, the skin, we uncover yet another dimension of the beneficial effects offered by sauna and cold plunge therapy!

The sweating induced by the sauna’s elevated temperatures aids in toxin release, paving the way for better skin health. Studies have also shown that regular sauna sessions have a protective effect on skin physiology, particularly when it comes to pH levels.

Cold plunging, on the other hand, has been associated with:

  • reduced skin inflammation
  • enhanced collagen production
  • controlled sebum production
  • improved skin tone
  • smaller pores

However, it's important to note that people with highly sensitive or dehydrated skin should be extra careful when sauna bathing and cold plunging.

Beyond the physiological benefits, the reduction of stress achieved through regular sauna sessions and cold plunges may have a positive impact on skin health. Since many skin conditions are associated with stress, this therapy can reduce the risk of developing various diseases like psoriasis or eczema.

Customizing Your Sauna and Cold Plunge Routine

At first, one would think having their own sauna and plunging tube at home is a bit crazy, right?! The truth is - if you've already incorporated it into your daily or weekly routine or plan to do so, the effort and the investment are undoubtedly worth it! The initial investment will certainly find its way back in the form of mental well-being and good health.

Whether you’re seeking to invigorate your mornings, recover from intense workouts, or simply find a moment of tranquility, your sauna and cold plunge area can be customized to support your goals. It’s a practice that can evolve and adapt with you, an ever-present ally in your wellness journey!

If you already have a sauna and want to incorporate cold plunges into your routine, contact Coldture to get Canada's #1 cold plunge tub! You can choose our Cold Therapy Pro Plunge, which:

  • doesn't require a setup
  • can cool the water up to 36°F (2.5°C) and heat it up to 105°F (40°C)
  • features an ozone sanitation system
  • comes with an automatic chlorine feeder and a skimmer filtration system
  • has an in-app temperature control and adjustable on/off jets

Alternatively, you can opt for our Classic Cold Plunge Tub Bundle, a more budget-friendly option (but just as good!), or our Barrel Cold Plunge Tub Bundle. We even offer a 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee - if you're not 100% satisfied with your purchase, get back to us, and we'll find a solution!

Alternatives to Sauna and Cold Plunges

If you don't have the possibility to sauna bath or cold plunge or you want to start slowly, you can always try a milder contrast therapy - alternating hot and cold showers. This won't only eliminate the need for specialized sauna and cold plunging equipment but will also help your body get used to the temperature changes. In time, you'll be able to withstand more drastic contrast therapies.

To benefit from shower contrast therapy, you should shower as usual at first, then alternate between hot and cold water at the end. Keep the hot water on for 3-4 minutes, then switch to cold water for about 45-60 seconds. Repeat this for about 15-20 minutes, ending with cold water, although you can do this for as much as you feel comfortable at the beginning. If your body tells you to stop after 10 minutes, listen to it and take it slowly.

You can also opt for taking hot and cold plunges. You'll need two tubs that can accommodate full-body immersion. The hot water should be approximately 37-40°C (100-105°F), while the cold water should be between 10 and 15°C (50-60°F). The rule is to spend 3 minutes in the hot tub and 1 minute in the cold one. Repeat this cycle for about 20-30 minutes.

If you choose the second option, get your Coldture tubs today! You'll be stunned at how convenient and easy to use they are!

Ready to Master Sauna and Cold Plunge Therapy?

As we conclude our exploration of the Nordic cycle of sauna and cold plunge therapy, it’s clear that this practice offers more than just fleeting comfort. Exposure to heat and cold enhances our immune system, boosts our metabolism, and reduces pain and inflammation. In addition, significantly improves our mental health! No wonder people have been practicing this therapy for thousands of years!

It may be difficult to get used to contrast therapy at first - but don't give up! Taking things slowly, following the rules, and mastering some breathing exercises will do wonders! Soon, you won't imagine your life without a hot sauna and the ice bath that follows!

So, take the plunge—contact Coldture today to get your cold therapy tub!

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I do sauna and cold plunge therapy for optimal benefits?

Start with 1-2 sessions a week and gradually increase frequency as your body adapts. Many people incorporate it into their daily routine and state that this yields the best results.

Can sauna and cold plunge therapy help with weight loss?

Sauna and cold plunge therapy can complement a healthy lifestyle and help lose weight when combined with proper diet and exercise. This practice boosts metabolism through the activation of brown adipose tissue.

Is it safe for everyone to participate in sauna and cold plunge therapy?

Sauna and cold plunge therapy is generally safe. However, if you suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, or other health issues, and if you are pregnant, you should consult a healthcare professional before adding this practice to your routine.

How long should I stay in the cold plunge?

You should start with a 2-minute cold plunge after a sauna session. Gradually increase the duration to 5 minutes as you become more comfortable. However, always listen to your body. If you need to start with shorter sessions of 15-30 seconds, don't hesitate to do so.

Can sauna and cold plunge therapy improve mental health?

Yes, sauna and cold plunge therapy can improve mental health. This practice releases endorphins and trains the fight-or-flight response. This way, it improves mood and helps with stress management. Adding mindfulness or meditation can further enhance mental well-being.

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