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Longevity Secrets in Sauna and Cold Plunge Therapy

Saunas are a Finnish tradition popular in the midwest, such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Michigan, and are also available in some health clubs across the country. Many homes in these states also have their own saunas, so people can enjoy using saunas more often and then going for a cold plunge afterwards. Why would anyone want to go through this extreme heat and then this extreme cold? The health benefits of going to a sauna and then taking a cold plunge will be talked about in this article.

History of sauna

A sauna is defined as "a bath that uses dry heat to make you sweat and in which steam is made by pouring water over hot stones." A sauna is a place where you can undress, sweat, and unwind.

Finnish saunas were originally pits in the ground thousands of years ago. Eventually, they evolved into small, usually log buildings heated between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit with a wood-burning stove. The steam in the sauna is produced by throwing water on the rocks that are heated on top of the sauna stove.

There are still traditional Finnish saunas around, but now you can also find electric saunas in homes and apartments that use infrared technology. Some people may feel hotter in this type of sauna because the heat is not as moist.

Benefits of sauna

Some people might not understand why anyone would want to sit in a hot room and sweat, but going to a sauna has been shown to be good for your health.

Cardiovascular disease

Studies have shown that sauna therapy is beneficial for congestive heart failure (CHF) patients. People with congenital heart failure (CHF) who went to the sauna improved their 6-minute walking distances, showed reduced heart sizes on X-rays and were given a better New York Heart Association (NYHA) diagnosis of the disease after two weeks of sauna therapy.

A study conducted in Finland over 20.7 years on 2,315 men who frequently used sauna bathing revealed some promising results. The study showed a 66% risk reduction for dementia, 65% for Alzheimer's, 63% for sudden cardiac death, and 40% for all-cause mortality.

Rheumatological and immune-mediated disease

A Dutch study that followed 34 people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or ankylosing spondylitis (AS) for four weeks and gave them sauna therapy found that people with RA had less pain and stiffness. Participants reported that they did not sustain a decrease in pain after they stopped treatment.

Studies done on patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other rheumatological disorders showed improvement in pain, reduced symptoms of the disease, decreased fatigue, and improved quality of life after completing 8-12 weeks of sauna therapy.

Headaches and depression

A New Zealand study on patients with chronic tension headaches reported a 44% reduction in headache intensity after six weeks of sauna treatment. Another study showed a decrease in depression symptoms with improved relaxation after four weeks of sauna therapy.

Lungs and airways

Studies have shown that people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) showed better symptom scores, lower blood pressures during exercise, longer exercise sessions, and better oxygen saturation during exercise. These improvements in lung function were observed after four weeks of daily sauna therapy.

A randomized controlled trial study in Germany on participants with common cold symptoms showed decreased symptom severity with fewer doses of cold and flu medication needed for treatment.

Healthy population

When studied in health populations, sauna bathing for four weeks showed reduced total cholesterol and lowered low density lipoproteins (LDL) levels.

Health benefits of a cold plunge after sauna

Taking a cold plunge after being in a sauna helps your body cool down even faster and is also good for your health. To do this, jump into the lake, roll around in fresh snow, or take an ice bath after a sauna.

Boosts immune system and detoxifies your body

Taking a cold plunge after a sauna can improve lymphatic circulation, which aids in the removal of germs, bacteria, and waste from our bodies. When you take a sauna followed by a cold plunge on a regular basis, it helps flush the waste from your immune system, allowing your body to function at its best. The cold water plunge tightens your lymph vessels, allowing for faster waste removal and boosting your white blood cell's resistance to pollutants.

Improves circulation

Your blood vessels dilate in a hot environment such as a sauna. When you take a cold plunge after a sauna, the shock of going from a hot to a cold climate causes your blood vessels to constrict, and blood flow to rapidly return to the vital organs to ensure they operate correctly. This increases blood pressure quickly and enhances oxygen delivery throughout the body.

Burns fat

Saunas can help you burn calories faster. When your core body temperature increases during a sauna, you burn calories one and a half to two times faster. The heat increases your heart and metabolic rate, like doing a moderate cardio workout, allowing you to burn extra calories.

Adding a cold plunge after taking a sauna can also increase your ability to burn fat and lose weight because the cold-water exposure activates your brown adipose tissue to help burn fat for energy to stay warm.

Relieves stress and improves mood

When you go to a sauna, the temperature of your skin rises, resulting in increased alertness, decreased pain perception, and an elevated mood. Cooling your body quickly after a sauna with a cold plunge causes your adrenaline to rise, improving your mood. Why is this? Norepinephrine is a chemical that our bodies make when we are stressed, and that impacts our mood and anxiety. Norepinephrine also helps improve focus, concentration, and sleep.

The heat from a sauna, followed by cold, results in increased blood flow, heart rate, and adrenaline, boosting the production of endorphins. This can reduce pain and increase happiness.

Decreases muscle soreness and inflammation

Studies have shown that cold water exposure can aid in decreasing inflammation. Taking a hot sauna bath followed by a cold plunge can help by reducing inflammation along with improved blood flow that results in decreased pain.

Rejuvenates the skin

With the combination of a hot sauna and a cold plunge, your blood flow gets better, which makes your skin healthier. When you take a cold plunge after being in a sauna, your pores close quickly. This keeps germs from getting into your skin and causing other skin problems.

Considerations

There are many things to consider when taking a sauna followed by a cold plunge. Knowing how long and cold the plunge should be is crucial. Due to rapid breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure increases, cold shock can be dangerous. The shock also stresses the heart and makes it work harder.

The National Center for Cold Water Safety also warns that a sudden water immersion under 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit can kill you in less than one minute due to cold shock.

Within minutes of being in the cold water, additional problems can occur. The blood rushes to the vital organs, causing the extremities to lose strength and coordination, which can lead to hypothermia.

People with heart conditions may take medications that lower their heart rate and blood pressure. Participating in a cold-water plunge can make it harder for those people to adapt to the shock of a sudden temperature drop.

Timing your sessions in the sauna and cold plunge is crucial and can be specific to each individual depending on health status, health goals and tolerability. It is important to listen to your body and get medical advice when necessary as the risks shouldn't outweigh the benefits.

A hot sauna and cold plunge may not be recommended for everyone. If you have any underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure or if you are pregnant, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider before trying something new.

Saunas sessions followed by cold plunges have a wide range of health advantages from improving cardiovascular function and circulation to boosting the immune system and detoxification. Though these findings are based on research, it is not exactly conclusive when it comes to the benefits of saunas and cold plunges. Studies have shown promising results, however, more in-depth, high quality research is needed to find optimum strategies such as duration, frequency and the extent of benefits.


📝Healthnews editor's top picks

HigherDose Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna
  • FSA/HSA Eligible
  • Various capacity options
  • Free shipping
  • Low EMF
Sun Home Equinox™ 2-Person Full-Spectrum Infrared Sauna
  • Materials are third-party tested
  • Built-in speakers
  • Low EMF
Inergize Cold Plunge Tub
  • Dual hot and cold therapy
  • Indoor and outdoor use
  • Tailored to a diverse range of individuals
  • Easy to install

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