You might know about the health benefits that come from spending time in a cold plunge tank. But did you know that adding heat can further enhance your results?
Known as contrast hydrotherapy, the practice of starting with soaking in a hot tub followed by a cold plunge provides unique health benefits.
Studies have found that people who establish a regular routine of exposure to heat followed by an ice plunge often show even greater results on numerous health measurements.
Let's look at what the secret is to achieving health recovery and regeneration with hot and cold plunge pools.
How Might You Benefit from Alternating Hot and Cold Plunging?
Before we get into the details of the process, what benefits might you enjoy from combining hot and cold plunge routines? The list is quite impressive, making it one of the best ways to improve your overall health at home.
Naturally Clears Your Body of Impurities
Transitioning between extreme temperatures is a great way to clear your body of impurities. Exposure to hot water and then icy cold water induces a natural reaction within the body, triggering the lymphatic system to swing into overdrive.
This pumps cleansing fluids throughout the body, washing away cellular waste and toxins.
Clears Muscles of Lactic Acid Buildup
Whether you're a professional or amateur athlete, you're probably familiar with the effects of lactic acid buildup. This pain-inducing byproduct of intense exercise can reduce mobility and performance for days afterward.
Because of the natural effects on blood circulation caused by contrast therapy, the accumulation of lactic acid can be curbed substantially.
Enhanced Exercise Fatigue Recovery
One study found that contrast therapy produced better fatigue recovery than cold water immersion therapy alone. By adding the element of either a hot water immersion or hot therapy in a sauna, researchers found that athletes reported increased energy levels and fatigue recovery.
The exact reasons for this are still being researched, but the results were promising for those seeking a competitive edge.
Reduction of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Because of how effective contrast therapy is at limiting the accumulation of lactic acid, it also leads to a reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This painful result of extreme efforts in the gym or in competition is a common problem elite athletes must contend with.
By sitting in infrared saunas or taking a hot plunge before an ice bath, it's possible to achieve faster muscle recovery and fewer muscle spasms.
Reduces Painful Joint Inflammation
Inflammation of the joints can cause chronic pain, hurting athletic performance and potentially causing other adverse effects. When workouts need to be cut short or skipped because of joint inflammation, muscle tissue breakdown can occur, known as muscle hypertrophy.
The enhanced blood flow induced by contrast therapy helps carry away damaged cells in joints, along with reducing swelling. One exception to this is those suffering from arthritis, which could be irritated by exposure to extreme heat.
For these people, sticking to cold immersions alone is best.
Could Reduce the Chances of Alzheimer's Disease
There's also evidence that leveraging a cold plunge technique with heat exposure therapy could reduce the chances of Alzheimer's Disease later in life. This is based on studies of Nordic cultures that have combined time in hot saunas with polar plunges for centuries.
Researchers are still trying to uncover the link between this type of therapy combination and a reduced occurrence of the disease.
How Do You Do Contrast Therapy at Home?
There are a couple of different ways you can get the benefits of contrast therapy in the comfort of your home. The most traditional method is using a hot sauna and cold plunge tank, but there are options that might work better for you, depending on your needs.
Hot Sauna or Hot Tub with a Cold Plunge Tank
Exposure to hot temperatures can release heat shock proteins, which are believed to be tied to longer life expectancy. To achieve this at home, you could use a hot tub for around 15 minutes before taking a 3-minute to 5-minute cold exposure in a cold plunge tank.
The maximum benefits, however, are usually achieved by using hot saunas, which reach far hotter temperatures than hot tubs can.
For example, hot tubs are typically set around 105ºF, while infrared hot saunas can reach 180ºF. Of course, the experience is vastly different between the two choices, so personal preference does come into play.
Some people prefer the relaxing effects of hot plunges over the more endurance-oriented experience that comes with hot saunas.
Always Start Hot, Then Go Cold
When it comes to contrast therapy at home, it's absolutely essential to be safety-oriented. Combining temperature extremes can produce extreme physiological responses, potentially putting your health at risk. Before trying contrast therapy, it's important to consult with your physician first.
Be certain that your cardiovascular system is capable of handling the hot and cold swings in temperature before you try this therapy. Once you've been cleared for safety, you'll want to always start hot, then go cold.
After you've been in a cold plunge tank, warm up naturally by putting on warm clothing. Do not get in a hot tub or hot sauna after your cold plunge session because this could create a dangerous change in blood pressure.
So, always start with your hot tub or hot sauna session, then do your cold plunge after that. Finish up by putting on warm clothes to slowly bring your body up to normal temperature.
Consistent Routines are Best
Finally, keep in mind that the research supporting the therapeutic benefits of contrast therapy has indicated consistency is the key.
For example, most practitioners that reported outstanding health benefits practiced this form of therapy four days per week on average. When you're trying to get the most from your investment in contrast therapy at home, plan on remaining consistent.
Benefit from Contrast Therapy at Home Any Time
When you want more health benefits than your hot tub, or hot sauna alone can provide, a cold plunge tank can be just what you need.
This combination will make contrast therapy at home convenient so you can build a consistent routine. Check out our cold plunges and if you have questions to help you decide which one is best for you, contact us at 714-617-2007 at RENU Therapy today!