Sauna/Cold Plunge Services
At CrossFit James Island our focus is to keep our clients as healthy as possible for as long as possible. For this reason, we have taken a deep dive and bought a sauna and cold plunge for our members to use. We believe that the research is clear about the immediate benefits to short-term and long-term health. Below you can find some health benefits of the sauna and then the cold plunge as well as our guide for use, research on sauna use, and our rules for operating our sauna.
The benefits of sauna use include:
1. SAUNAS IMPROVE OVERALL HEALTH, WELLNESS AND PERFORMANCE
Not surprisingly, sauna bathers most frequently cite “stress reduction” as the number one benefit of sauna use. Studies show the majority of disease (e.g. heart disease) is at least partially stress-related. Decades of well-done, peer-reviewed sauna medical research have shown saunas to provide profound health benefits. A 25-year study conducted with more than 2,300 participants at the University of Eastern Finland by Dr. Jari Laukkanen and his colleagues revealed regular sauna use improved cardiovascular health among many other health benefits. In short, regular sauna bathing is a wonderful, feel-good and good-for-you addition to your overall health and wellness plan.
2. IMPROVES HEART HEALTH
In the high temperatures of a traditional or infrared sauna, skin heats up and core body temperature rises. In response to these increased heat levels, the blood vessels near the skin dilate and “cardiac output/circulation” increases. Medical research has told us that the heart rate can rise from 60-70 bpm (beats per minute) to 110-120 bpm in the sauna (140-150 bpm with more intensive bathing), and can often sink to below normal after the cooling off stage. Regular sauna usage has been shown to reduce the risk of all-cause mortality and fatal cardiac incidents along with reduced risk of stroke and hypertension.
3. SAUNAS AID IN RECOVERY AFTER EXERCISE
Saunas relax muscles and soothe aches/pains in both muscles and joints. Under the high-heat provided by a sauna, the body releases endorphins which can minimize pain and is often associated with a “runner’s high.” As the body temperature rises in the heat of the sauna, blood vessels dilate allowing for increased blood circulation, which in turn speeds the body’s natural healing process. After physical activity, use the heat and steam of a sauna to promote muscle relaxation by helping to reduce muscle tension and eliminate lactic acid and other toxins that may be present.
To view testimonials from highly performing athletes on how they use sauna for recovery after intense workouts, please see what the following have to say about how they use saunas in their workout regimens: Dan Gable (NCAA & Olympic Wrestling), Darby Hendrickson (NHL), Conrad Anker (The North Face Mountain Climbing Team), Nooralotta Neziri (World Track and Field), Dany Heatley (NHL All-Star), Gwen Jorgensen (Gold Medal Triathlon Olympian).
4. SAUNAS FLUSH TOXINS
Due to the heat of a sauna, the core body temperature begins to rise. Sweat production is primarily designed to cool the body, and is composed of 99% water. However, deep sweating in a sauna can help reduce levels of lead, copper, zinc, nickel, mercury and chemicals - which are all toxins commonly absorbed just from interacting with our daily environments.
5. IMPROVE BRAIN HEALTH
A 25-year study conducted with more than 2,300 participants at the University of Eastern Finland by Dr. Jari Laukkanen and his colleagues revealed regular sauna use (4-7 times per week) at 176 degrees F for 19 minutes lowered the risk for both Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association includes sweating as an important way to improve brain health: https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health/10_ways_to_love_your_brain
6. SAUNAS RELIEVE STRESS
The heat in the sauna helps us to relax and regulates the level of cortisol in our blood. Cortisol is the hormone that is released when we’re stressed, and too high levels of cortisol can lead to a number of health issues such as problems with the immune system and with sleeping. Sauna bathing reduces the levels of cortisol in our blood, and instead it stimulates the production of serotonin. Serotonin is our “happy hormone” that makes us feel good.
7. SAUNAS INDUCE A DEEPER SLEEP
Research has shown that a deeper, more relaxed sleep can result from sauna use. In addition to the release of endorphins, body temperatures that be come elevated in the late evening, fall at bedtime. This slow, relaxing decline in endorphins is key in facilitating sleep. Sauna bathers worldwide enjoy the deep sleep experiences resulting from the calming heat of an evening sauna.
8. SAUNAS HELP FIGHT ILLNESS
German sauna medical research shows that saunas were able to significantly reduce the incidences of colds and influenza among study participants. As the body is exposed to the heat of a sauna and steam (in the case of traditional saunas), it produces white blood cells more rapidly, which in turn helps to fight illnesses and helps to kill viruses. In addition, saunas can relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of sinus congestion from colds or allergies.
9. SAUNAS BURN CALORIES
Outlandish claims are often made by some sauna sellers to promote saunas as an end-all weight loss tool. While some individuals may experience high amounts of calorie burn at first - particularly those individuals in poor shape to begin with - over the long term, saunas are simply treated as one of many tools in our arsenal when it comes to burning additional calories. The sweating process itself requires a notable amount of energy. That energy is derived from the conversion of fat and carbohydrates in a bodily process that burns up calories. According to U.S. Army medical research (Ward Dean, M.D.), “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna in a single session, consuming nearly 300 calories in the process.” The body consumes said calories due to the acceleration of heart activity (see section 2 on Heart Health). As heart activity increases and as these processes demand more oxygen, the body begins to convert more calories into usable energy.
10. SAUNA CLEANSES SKIN
Heat bathing is one of the oldest beauty and/or health strategies in terms of cleansing one’s skin. When the body begins to produce sweat via deep sweating, the skin is then cleansed and dead skin cells are replaced - keeping your skin in good working condition. Sweating rinses bacteria out of the epidermal layer and sweat ducts. Cleansing of the pores has been shown to improve the capillary circulation, while giving the skin a softer-looking quality.
11. RECREATIONAL AND SOCIAL BENEFITS
While the social benefit is rarely talked about, it’s actually quite important. The sauna can be a private, personal area of relaxation and solitude. However, it can just as easily be a relaxing environment for socializing with family, friends and soon-to-be friends. The sauna room environment is conducive to open, intimate and quiet conversation.
12. JUST FEELS GOOD
A sauna not only feels good, it’s good for your body. Whether it’s the physiological changes that occur during the warmth of a sauna, or if it’s simply the time spent in the calming and still retreat of the sauna, every seasoned sauna bather agrees - it feels wonderful! As we progress through our stressful everyday lives, the sauna provides a pampering retreat - where we can relax and restore body and soul. Sauna bathing truly makes you “Feel Better”, “Look Better” and “Sleep Better”!
Here are the 10 health benefits associated with cold plunges and cold therapy:
1. Reduced inflammation: This is a big one since most of us walk around with chronic inflammation and don’t even realize it! Submerging yourself in the chilled water instantly numbs the nerves that surround your joints and muscles, causing the release of hormones and endorphins. Studies show the release of hormones and endorphins acts as an analgesic, which relieves inflammation and alleviates muscle strain and joint pain.
2. Boosts mood: As the cold water envelops the entire body, norepinephrine, an anti-stress hormone and neurotransmitter, and epinephrine/adrenaline are released which is what makes you feel so invigorated! Several studies are now being conducted on using cold water therapy and cold showers to help treat depression. For example, this small study showed that the cold hydrotherapy can relieve depressive symptoms rather effectively. In addition, this 2007 study found evidence that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms, and, if used regularly, might even be more effective than prescription antidepressants!
3. Improves the body’s antioxidant capacity and increases white blood count: A study from England found that those who took daily cold showers had increased numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells (compared to people who took hot showers). The investigators at Britain’s Thrombosis Research Institute suggested that as the body tries to warm itself during and after a cold shower, metabolic rate speeds up and activates the immune system, which leads to the release of more white blood cells. And, according to a German study, consistency is essential! Those who only participated in an occasional winter swim in cold water had increased oxidative stress, but, done regularly, such swimming leads to an adaptive antioxidant response. Those who regularly partook in cold water swims had bodies better equipped to combat oxidative stress in general once they were accustomed to cold-water swims.
4. Boosts immune system: A plunge in frigid water causes your lymph vessels to contract, which forces your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body. The flushing of fluid triggers the white blood cells to attack any foreign bodies in the body. Cytokines and other chemicals that boost the immune system receive a release in cold plunging. According to this study, cold water baths have shown to stimulate the lymphatic and immune system, which helps in boosting the production of infection-fighting cells thereby increasing your immunity. This same study found that people who take cold showers are 29% less likely to call in sick for work or school. Also, try these natural foods to boost your immune system.
5. Helps improve circulation: As cold water hits your body and external limbs, it constricts circulation on the surface of your body. This causes blood in your deeper tissues to circulate at faster rates to maintain ideal body temperature.
To work up to ice plunges, start with cold showers
6. Can help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis: For those with rheumatoid arthritis, taking a cold shower after a sauna has been shown to reduce pain and improve circulation which can help minimize symptoms throughout the remainder of the day.
7. Can improve lung health: Your lung function improves tremendously when you take a plunge in cold water suggests a study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences. That feeling of breathlessness you get when you take a plunge into cold water is what improves your lung function. When you hold your breath each time you take a plunge and slowly release your breath, you improve your lung function.
8. Good for the nervous system: Nerves in the autonomic nervous system are activated during the cold plunge immersion. The cold also stimulates you to take deeper breaths, decreasing the level of CO2 throughout the body, helping you concentrate. Also, studies show that the increase in fat burning during cold exposure is modulated by the sympathetic nervous system. Cold temperatures act as a mild “workout” for the nervous system, which adapts and strengthens.
9. Aids at fat-burning, regulating blood sugar, and weight loss: One study found adiponectin levels increase by 70% after cold exposure. Adiponectin is a protein involved in blood glucose regulation, with low levels often found in insulin resistance. In another study, subjects who were exposed to cold stress had an 80% increase in their metabolism over “warm” levels. Studies also show that cold exposure increases Brown Adipose Tissue activity, which leads to increased calorie expenditure. Researchers concluded that frequent cold exposures might be an acceptable and economical complementary approach to address the current obesity epidemic.
10. Good for willpower: Let’s face it, the first few seconds of a cold plunge are tough, but powering through can work wonders at training your brain. Getting into freezing cold water every day trains the brain to do things it otherwise wouldn’t. This positive attitude could then translate to other areas of your life!