Benefits of Combining Sauna Sessions with Cold Dips

December 6, 2022
5 min read

Saunas and cold water exposure

Warmth, relaxation, soothed aches and pains… There’s no disputing that saunas are a great way to unwind, and also boast a multitude of health benefits. However, one Finnish tradition that can give your sauna session a real boost is combining time in the hot sauna with cold water exposure. This is also known as contrast therapy. 

Whether you opt for a cold shower, take a dip in cool natural waters, or even roll around in the snow, there are a number of different health benefits to be enjoyed that make trying this seemingly unusual combination worthwhile. 

Feeling a bit sceptical? Fear not. The combination of the cold water and warm sauna might sound intimidating at first, but this is something that our team and members here at Divers Cove partake in on a regular basis.

It’s not uncommon for us to see our winter swimmers headed for our handcrafted wooden sauna pods in between dips. Our stunning, sandy-bottomed lake is open year-round, perfect for those looking to find a local spot for wild swimming, winter swimming and sauna sessions

For any city centre folk, we’re just over an hour away from London, and our lakeside sauna pods are the perfect place to unwind from the stresses of the capital.

Anyway, we digress. It’s time to dive into some of the benefits of the sauna and cold water combination…

Does sauna bathing help mental health?

Anxiety, depression, stress and general low mood - unfortunately, poor mental health is something that many people struggle with. Fortunately, natural remedies that have helped some to alleviate their symptoms include saunas and cold water swimming. Whether used separately or together, research suggests that the extremely hot and cold temperatures of these two popular hobbies can give you a mental well-being boost, making them the perfect activity for a bit of self-care self. 

Firstly, are the increased feelings of relaxation to be enjoyed in a sauna due to the heat increasing your blood flow. This helps to relax the muscles, and, in turn, your mind, especially if you choose to practise meditation or mindfulness whilst in there. If you’ve practised mindfulness before, you’ll know that it’s all about keeping your attention on the present moment and can help with mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression. It’s for this reason that winter swimming is a great way to try mindfulness as, when you’re exposed to the cooler temperatures of the water, you’ll find that your mind can only focus on one thing - the cold. 

Similarly, is the elevated mood many sauna-goers and wild swimmers enjoy due to the challenging change in temperatures. Both of these activities boost your heart rate and get your blood pumping, thus boosting endorphins and, in turn, your mood. 

Furthermore, the combination of cold water and hot saunas provides a mental challenge that triggers your fight or flight mechanism as your body temperature drops or rises. These can improve your concentration levels as you become more alert and your pain perception alters, making you more equipped to cope with the stresses and pains of daily life. 

Can sauna and cold water therapy reduce aches and pains?

Struggling with aches and pains? There’s no worse feeling - especially when they start to impact your ability to keep fit. However, due to the low-impact nature of the workout, swimming is praised for helping those with aches, pains and health issues such as arthritis stay fit. Opting for wild swimming over pool swimming then adds further benefits to your workout, as the cold water is known for reducing muscle inflammation and tension. 

Adding saunas into this mix only provides further benefits, as the increased blood circulation caused by the heat is also fantastic for soothing sore muscles and joints. 

Struggling with muscle aches, pains and soreness? Give contrast therapy a try. 

What about using contrast therapy to boost my immune system?

After the past couple of years, it comes as no surprise that everyone wants to try and boost their immune systems. Staying inside meant that many people found themselves avoiding common illnesses like coughs, colds and the flu - to only then go back outside and find that they were picking everything up again! Orange juice, supplements, lemon and honey… let’s face it, we’ve all tried them all! But something many people have yet to try is wild swimming and hot saunas. 

You’ll find that the heat exposure of using saunas on a regular basis will result in your airways feeling clearer, as well as boosting your immune system, whilst the cold exposure of open water swimming provides its own immunity boost.  

Teamed together, this combination is bound to give your immune system a much-needed boost for the colder months. 

Can saunas help with weight loss?

Due to the aerobic nature of the exercise, swimming is widely acknowledged as a way to get fit and shed a few pounds doing so. However, did you know that saunas and cold water can also aid weight loss? This is because when you’re exposed to hot and cold your body needs to work harder, thus making your heart beat faster resulting in burnt calories and increased metabolic rate.

Natural detox

Stress, germs, alcohol and unhealthy food can lead to our bodies taking on a lot of toxins which can prove harmful over time - so it’s pretty important to take the time to detox every now and then. Sweating is your body’s way of releasing these toxins from your skin, and the heat of a sauna is bound to get you breaking a sweat. 

Though sweating alone is a great way to release toxins, the real magic happens when you try contrast therapy using a sauna and cold water. This gives your body’s lymphatic system a kickstart, helping you to generate new cells.

Will contrast therapy clear my skin?

When using a sauna, you’ll find that your pores have opened to allow your sweat to be released. This is a great way to give your skin a good detox - especially if you use a lot of heavy makeup or skincare products that can clog your pores. However, it’s also important that your pores close again afterwards - and cold water is a great way to do this. 

So, when you follow a sauna session up with some cold water exposure to rinse your face, you’re giving your skin a nice detox that can result in a glowing complexion.

Warming up after winter swimming 

These are just some of the wonderful health benefits that contrast therapy boasts. However, health benefits aside, it’s also important to remember that our wooden sauna pods are a great way to warm up after your winter swim. So, next time you visit us for a refreshing swim, why not consider adding on a sauna session? We offer both standard sessions and private hire. 

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