Spas and fitness centers have been utilizing saunas for a long time, but more wellness centers are popping up with specific focuses on different types of hot and cold therapy. For example, wellness-focused social club Remedy Place in New York and Los Angeles houses private infrared saunas, ice back classes, whole-body cryotherapy chambers, red light therapy, and even a private contrast suite where you can group your private infrared sauna session with double ice baths. New York City alone has plenty of hot and cold therapy studios such as Chillspace for Cryotherapy sessions and Clean Market for saunas, cryotherapy, and more. You can expect these types of wellness centers to continue popping up across the country.
Brands and wellness studios are bound to lean into contrast therapy as the next big thing, combining the benefits of hot and cold therapy. Katie Kaps, co-founder and co-CEO of HigherDose (the brand behind an infrared sauna blanket our co-founder and editors love), confirms this, saying, “We built our business on the belief in infrared therapy as the ultimate way to detox, improve sleep, reduce inflammation and support muscle recovery. Cold therapy pairs perfectly and we’re exploring ways to expand the HigherDOSE spa and consumer experience with contrast therapy.”
Similar to the hot yoga you may have been practicing for years, heat-based fitness classes and classes in extremely cold temperatures are meant to instill the same state of hormesis. Studios like Burn Collective, Heated Room, HOTWORX, and Hot Phiit are tapping into these hot and cold therapy techniques, combining them with exercise for even more benefits.
Most studies look specifically at ice baths, cryotherapy, and saunas, but simpler methods such as cold showers and warm baths have similar health-boosting benefits. Wim Hof recommends taking cold showers daily, with a simple protocol to ease into the practice by gradually increasing the length of your showers, while decreasing the temperature. With time, you’ll become more accustomed to the practice. The resilience you build toward a small stressor like cold water will then start to show itself in other areas of your life—and the cold water can also do wonders for the health of your hair and skin. Once you see and feel the benefits, you’ll likely look forward to these chilly bursts.
On another recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Mark Harper, M.D., Ph.D., cold therapy expert and consultant anesthetist at Sussex University Hospitals, spoke about how cold water immersion can impact your well-being by reducing your body’s inflammatory response, among other health-boosting benefits. Of no-cost methods, Harper prefers baths over showers, but his highest recommendation is outdoor swimming. “One of the great things about sea swimming is being out in nature,” he says. “It’s the whole package, which I think is really important. It’s also more likely to keep you doing it.” For baths and showers, Harper tends to recommend three minutes total and to put your face in the water three times. “You get a bonus effect from putting your face in the water,” he explains, as it stimulates the vagus nerve and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which can reduce inflammation.
On the hot therapy front, a randomized study measuring the physical and mental effects of warm baths showed a significant improvement in general health, mental health, and emotional and social functioning scores16 in those who bathed in warm water regularly. Plus, the practice can be incredibly relaxing and is equally easy to incorporate into your mindfulness and recovery routine. And, while they unfortunately don’t have the same hair and skin benefits as their cold counterpart, hot showers are also a good way to relax your muscles and release toxins from your body. Additionally, more studies need to be done, but a few have suggested that raising your body temperature in this way can help improve your mood and ease depression17.
At-Home Devices: New hot and cold therapy devices are hitting the scene day after day, allowing us to reap these benefits from our very own homes.