When you think of self-care, you most likely imagine a warm bubble bath with candles and aromatherapy oils. However, an ice bath or ice barrel offers incredible benefits for people from all walks of life.
When used together with a traditional sauna, ice barrels contribute to a number of health and wellness benefits. From increased blood circulation to improved immunity, there are many perks of an ice bath.
While dipping your toes into ice-cold water may not be at the top of your bucket list, you’ll find yourself craving the refreshing, stimulative sensation - and the long-term health benefits.
Let’s explore the benefits of ice baths, and how they are amplified when used in conjunction with a sauna (either infrared or traditional).
Ice Bath Benefits
Ice baths are most commonly associated with athletes because of the known benefits of muscle recovery. However, their benefits extend far further, boosting the wellness of insomniacs, helping those who struggle with mental health, and more.
Ice barrels involve cold water immersion, also known as cold hydrotherapy, which has multiple positive effects, such as the following.
One of the best times to jump into an ice bath is directly after working out as this is when your muscles are most primed for healing.
Exposure to cold water causes your blood vessels to constrict and get smaller. The vessels rapidly dilate when exiting the water, sending oxygen and nutrients to the muscles that need them most. The process is known to aid muscle recovery by changing the way that blood and fluid flows through the body, flushing away metabolic waste.
Not only do ice baths help with muscle recovery, but they also prevent muscle pain by reducing inflammation. Limiting pain and improving recovery help to reduce the risk of injury.
Each of these benefits helps to prepare the body for the next workout, which is why ice baths are such a popular trend among athletes. However, you don’t need to be a professional sportsman to enjoy the rejuvenating sensation of loose, injury-free muscles.
Boost Mental Health
While submerging yourself in ice-cold water may not be a relaxing process, it has the potential to boost your mental health. An ice bath is a parasympathetic activity and can improve mental health by improving the focus on breathwork.
Learning to breathe through stressful situations can help with relaxation and reducing anxiety. In many ways, cold water helps to build resilience and mental toughness by conditioning the brain to cope with environmental stress.
As your body builds up a tolerance, you’ll find yourself itching to jump into the cold water and embrace the exhilaration that follows.
One would imagine that a cold, ice bath will trigger alertness - and it does! However, ice baths also have a positive effect on the central nervous system which, in turn, can improve sleep routine.
By regulating cortisol levels, ice baths can reduce the instance of sleep-related disorders (and symptoms of depression).
There are several scientific theories that suggest why ice baths improve sleep conditions, including a great spike in melatonin, a hormone that prompts your body to feel tired, inducing deep sleep.
Scientific studies have shown that dropping the temperature of a shower can reduce the number of sick days in a year. The same principle applies to ice baths.
Exposing your body to colder temperatures alters your fat cells. The process of thermogenesis involves the healthier, brown fat cells, converting energy into heat and helping with metabolic function. In addition, it prevents weight gain. Ice water triggers the process of thermogenesis and boosts your immune system.
Pushing the body to function outside of its comfort zone has a direct effect on immunity, and has positive long-term effects on overall wellbeing.
Making the Most of the Ice Bath Experience
The benefits of ice bathing are maximized when used together with a sauna. By contrasting two, small doses of high-intensity stress, contrast therapy contributes to health and wellness benefits.
Moving your body between the hot sauna and the freezing water constricts the blood vessels and elevates blood pressure. The increased blood flow improves muscle recovery and speeds the repair of muscle damage.
Alternating between an ice bath and sauna offers its own unique set of benefits, such as the following.
- Improved ability to manage and regulate temperature swings
- Boost physical recovery (especially from injury)
- Increase mental and physical resilience
- Heightened immune system function
- Better control of breathing under stress
How to Use a Sauna and Ice Bath Together
Saunas are typically maintained between 150-195° F, while ice baths are usually kept at 50–59° F. Going from one to the other moves the body from intense heat to freezing cold, introducing the many benefits.
Before taking part in your new favorite ritual, it’s important to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
- Spend a minimum of 20 minutes in the sauna
- Rinse off in luke-warm water
- Towel off and rehydrate yourself
- Step into your ice bath for 10 - 15 minutes
While scientists and medical practitioners recommend that it’s safe to expose your body to both extremes, it’s important to respect your body’s limits. If it’s the first time that you’re hopping into an ice bath, it’s recommended that you take it easy, especially if you struggle with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.
Invest in a Sauna and Ice Bath at Home
With the rising popularity of both saunas and ice baths, the methods have become increasingly more available. Gone are the days when you have to travel for miles to your nearest spa.With reputable companies, such as Sun Home Sauna, you can have your choice of sauna (traditional or infrared) and ice barrel in the comfort of your own home. Contact us today to find out more, and follow Sun Home Sauna on Instagram to stay up to date with our latest projects.