Take a Dip in Contrast Bathing

Express News Service

Contrast bathing, or contrast therapy, combines the use of hot and cold temperatures to promote wellness and rejuvenation. Originating in Finland, the practice has gained prominence worldwide for its benefits in aiding post-workout recovery, reducing stress levels and increasing longevity. Though popular among athletes, contrast bathing offers benefits for everyone, regardless of their fitness level.

The therapy involves alternating between hot and cold temperatures in various settings such as saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and ice baths. The scientific mechanism at play is the response of blood vessels when transitioning between different temperatures. Hot temperature causes the vessels to dilate, while cold leads to constriction, promoting a pumping action that stimulates blood circulation throughout the body. The therapy has also been found to reduce inflammation and alleviate muscle soreness.

Research published in Plos One suggests that hot water ranging from 35-45°C and cold water between 10-15°C are most beneficial for contrast bathing. The recommended approach is to start with a one-to three-minute hot water immersion, followed by a one-minute cold water immersion, repeating the cycle for approximately 20 minutes. It’s important to conclude the therapy with a cold water dip.

Benefits of heat and cold therapy: Saunas are the most popular form of heat therapy and its regular usage is linked to improved sleep and stress release. Infrared saunas, a modern alternative to wood cabins, offer a cost-effective option, allowing for quicker heat-up times and faster sweat production. Besides saunas, steam rooms also provide benefits such as muscle recovery, joint mobility, improved circulation and enhanced skin health. 

Cold plunges, icy lake swims and cold showers have long been used to relieve muscle fatigue and promote recovery. It helps to increase energy levels, alertness, mental clarity and the release of mood-boosting endorphins. Engaging in regular cold water immersion builds mental fortitude. Enduring the shock of freezing temperatures and controlling your breathing during the therapy cultivates mental strength. On 
a physical level, cold water bathing can boost the immune system, aid in weight management and assist in muscle recovery.

Longevity: Recent studies show that contrast bathing can slow down the ageing process by stimulating autophagy, the body’s self-cleaning and recycling system. Autophagy helps protect against diseases by recycling components of damaged cells into newer, healthier ones. Additionally, exposure to cold temperatures can enhance the production and health of mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells responsible for energy production. Regular contrast therapy may therefore contribute to anti-ageing at a cellular level.

Do it at home: Simply fill a tub with hot water or take a hot shower, and use cold running water for the contrasting effect. Alternatively, you can also start by submerging just your feet in cold water and gradually increasing the immersion. If you are new to contrast bathing, seek guidance from a coach, or spa professional to ensure a safe experience. Those with skin issues, heart condition or injuries should avoid the therapy.

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