Everything You Need to Know About Cold Water Therapy

Cold water therapy – as the name suggests – is treatment by the use or application of the cold. This is not an uncommon topic of discussion at Banya No.1 – Chiswick, as the application of cold water (either via our bucket showers, ice rub or by using the plunge pool) is an important part of the Russian banya experience.

Cold water therapy has been used for centuries – for as long as the spa experience – but was always especially prevalent in Finnish sauna and Russian banya culture.

Cold water therapy benefits will, of course, vary from person to person, but there are a number of general benefits that we can all experience to a greater or lesser degree, and this is what we will be exploring in this article.

We will take a view on the following topics:

  • Cold water therapy
  • How does a sudden change in temperature affect the body?
  • Cryotherapy
  • Ice bath benefits
  • The plunge pool – the “hot sauna cold plunge” experience
  • Cold water therapy at Banya No.1 – Chiswick

There is a fair body of scientific evidence that supports cold water therapy benefits – and there is an enormous amount of anecdotal evidence as well, although we will not delve into that here today.

Cold Water Therapy – A definition

Cold water therapy can mean different things to different people, so it will be good for us to start with what we mean when we are discussing it.

In the context of the Russian banya, cold water therapy is the ‘application’ of ice-cold water after heat treatment in the steam room.

At Banya No.1 – Chiswick we have two cold water therapy options:

  • The ice rub
  • The bucket showers
  • The plunge pool

The ice rub is a cool add-on after Parenie treatment.

Ice rub - Banya No.1 - Chiswick

The bucket showers are buckets of ice-cold water fixed overhead. As you exit from the steam room, or Parenie treatment, you stand under a bucket, pull the handle, and douse yourself in the chilled water.

The plunge pool offers you a similar spa experience but is a whole-body treatment. Plunge in and climb out after a full-on dip!

In either case, the effects on the body can be transformative – as many will tell you! So let’s look a little deeper into the plunge pool effect and see what actually happens to your body when you do take the plunge.

Bucket showers - Banya No.1 -Chiswick Icy plunge pool - Banya No.1 - Chiswick

How Does a Sudden Change in Temperature Affect the Body?

The sudden move from a hot steam room into a brief cold water therapy experience has several potential beneficial impacts on the body.

Let’s take a moment to understand what is happening. First, in the steam room, the body temperature rises, blood vessels dilate, heart rate increases and more oxygen is delivered to the cells in your body. In other words, the heat treatment will improve blood circulation. At the same time, your skin pores open, you sweat, and this results in toxins being expelled from your body. Remember, your skin is the largest organ of your body, making up around 16% of your body mass. Its role in your general health is critical – more so than most people realise. Heat treatment such as this is a great detox treatment.

When you exit the steam room in this state (after sitting or after Parenie treatment) and then take the bucket shower and the plunge pool – what cold water therapy benefits do you gain?

This “hot sauna cold plunge” treatment suddenly constricts your blood vessels and helps your heart rate return to normal. These up-and-down variations on circulation strengthen your cardiovascular system as a whole, improve your artery and vein elasticity and helps to strengthen your heart – ie. it will strengthen and improve blood circulation.

At the same time, the sudden cold will close your pores, promoting the production of collagen and elastin fibres. The result of this is to make your skin smooth and shiny, looking younger and feeling fresher.

Cold water therapy can also have some incredible benefits on the body if you need to reduce inflammation. A recent study concluded that cryotherapy can reduce the inflammation process, which is great news for those seeking such treatments.

Muscle recovery after exercise is another of the cold water therapy benefits. The sudden changes in temperature from hot to cold forces the body to produce ‘heat shock’ proteins that are helpful in muscle growth.

What is Cryotherapy?

We have mentioned cryotherapy and cryotherapy benefits, but again, a definition may be helpful, as it is a word whose meaning is varied.

Within a medical setting, there are certain specific treatments referred to as cryotherapy. These involve temperatures often well below 0°c (such as cancer treatments or wart removal).

There is also whole-body cryotherapy, which involves staying inside a sealed unit for a short amount of time.

This is not what we are talking about here, of course. When we refer to cryotherapy at Banya No.1 – Chiswick, we are, of course, referring to cold water therapy, which is a part of the Russian banya experience.

This is a process derived from jumping into an icy lake or rolling in snow, after a hot steam room session.

As many of our regular customers will tell you, some cryotherapy benefits include feeling more energetic, less stressed and better rested – all a part of the banya experience!

Some people refer to cryotherapy as the ‘Wim Hof Method’ which became popular a few years ago – but simply refers to cold therapy that has been known and understood by banya users for centuries!

The Ice Bath

There has also been a lot of talk recently about the ice bath and the benefits of ice baths.

Essentially, this is the technique of taking a 10–15-minute dip in very cold water (around 10°c or so), usually after an intense session of exercise, as it can help reduce inflammation, muscle pain and soreness.

Although the benefits of ice bath are widely discussed, research on cold water therapy alone varies according to which study you read.

The benefits of cold water therapy after a hot steam session, however, are clearer. In other words, it is not so much the cold water alone that is the best treatment, but rather the combination of the hot followed by the cold.

It is the sudden change in temperature that gives the benefits. So once you have finished in the steam room – make sure you head for the buckets showers and plunge pool!

The Plunge Pool

Once you exit from the steam room, stand under the bucket showers and pull the handle! The splash of ice-cold water will kick your immune system into overdrive, wash away your sweat (and expelled toxins) and cleanse you before you enter the plunge pool.

The plunge pool is your whole-body cold water therapy. Jump in, submerge, climb out.

The result? You will feel amazing. Using a plunge pool after a steam room will give you a burst of energy, and trigger the immune system into flooding your body with white blood cells. This is an incredibly effective treatment if you feel you are coming down with a cold or ‘flu.

The plunge pool is a must-do banya experience – as you will not reap all the benefits that cold water therapy offers without it, as we have seen above.

Cold Water Therapy at Banya No.1 – Chiswick

It goes without saying – but we must – that although cold water therapy benefits are great, they are not suitable for everyone.

If you suffer from high blood pressure or are pregnant, then always seek professional medical advice before participating. Also, if you have any other condition that you may feel requires direction before you take the plunge.

With cold water therapy, plunge pools and even ice bath treatments, the general consensus from experts is to keep it brief – a momentary plunge – as opposed to longer exposure.

Anything longer, unless under medical supervision, can lead to loss of heat from the body and be detrimental. So if you have any concerns, then speak to your doctor.

That aside, the vast majority of customers at Banya No.1 – Chiswick, will all say the same thing to you – give it a try – as you will not believe the benefits of cold water therapy until you do.

For many, it really is a life-changing experience, and for this reason, they make it a part of their regular routine.

Booking could not be easier, book online or call us today for more details.

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