Hot and cold water immersion therapy; which is better?

29 August, 2022

Water therapy is a tried and true method for relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and activating the body’s natural functions, but which form of water therapy is better? Hot water immersion? Or cold water immersion?


Is Hot Water Immersion for Me?

Hot water immersion therapy has many positive effects on the human body. These positive side effects include:

Cardiovascular health improvement : a review completed in 2014 found that warm water was linked to blood flow improvements in people with chronic heart failure. This is possible because blood vessels widen when exposed to high temperatures. Another review conducted in 2012 found that warm water immersion therapy improved arterial stiffness, which plays a significant role in atherosclerosis, a type of cardiovascular disease.

Better joint and muscle health :  hot water increases blood flow, soothes stiff muscles, and can even help alleviate osteoarthritis pain when applied regularly.

Better brains : hot baths (with the water at 42 degrees celcius) have been shown to increase the growth and maintenance of nerve cells, as well as increase memory and learning capabilities. This is because hot baths promote a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is vital to the function of your brain and spinal cord; see this 2018 study for details.

Better sleep : warm baths have been shown to relax the body and help induce sleep. It is currently thought that a hot shower before bed helps with sleep due to the increase in temperature that helps relax the body while you are in the water, and the rapid cool down when you step out of the water.

Helps alleviate mood disorders : hot water immersion therapy has also been known to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, there is such a significant amount of evidence to support this hypothesis that Lakehead University, located in Canada, is currently conducting major clinical trials to accurately measure the effects of this treatment (clinical trials due to end in December 2022).

Cold Water Immersion, Isn’t it Even Better for You?

Cold water immersion therapy treats different ailments than hot water immersion therapy. Cold water immersion therapy helps with the following issues:

Circulation : cold water immersion helps increase your circulation by making the blood vessels at the skin’s surface smaller, forcing the blood deeper into your body. Some studies have even linked cold showers to decreased dehydration rates after exercise due to the rapid cool down of your body caused by your cooled blood circulating into the deep tissue.

Lowering stress levels : cold water helps reduce stress levels by decreasing your body’s cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for the feeling of stress.

Pain reduction : a 2014 review found that cold water immersion triggers a natural process called stress-induced analgesia in the body. This process relieves stimuli like pain when in stressful situations, i.e. the stress and shock of being immersed in cold water.

Which is Better? Cold or Hot Water Immersion?

Both hot and cold water immersion therapies have some significant benefits in terms of your body’s natural health. However, there is not specifically one therapy that is better than the other. The treatment you need to receive is contingent on your ailment. For example, if you have high anxiety and struggle to relax, a hot tub may be a perfect way to help you relax. However, a spa that accommodates cold water might be ideal if you are an athlete and struggle with pain.

In the perfect world, everybody should have access to both hot and cold water immersion so that they can customise their at-home treatment with what they need on the day. In fact, some evidence suggests alternating between cold and hot water immersion can reduce fatigue, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, and reduce swelling for up to three days after an injury.

Try the Cold Therapy Wim Hof Method : a way to keep your body and mind in its optimal natural state

Proper exposure to the cold starts a cascade of health benefits, including the buildup of brown adipose tissue and resultant fat loss, reduced inflammation that facilitates a fortified immune system, balanced hormone levels, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins -  the feel-good chemicals in the brain that naturally elevate your mood.

You may like to learn more about cold therapy from Wim Hof ‘The Ice Man’ himself and give it a go, guided by his You Tube videos.....

Click here for some motivation to get you into a cold shower 

Cold Shower vs Ice Bath : Which one is better? 


Learn more about The Wim Hof Method :

How Can I get Hot and Cold Water Immersion Therapy at Home?

Unlike professional athletes and research studies, most people do not have access to the equipment that is usually needed to receive these treatments, but one of our hot tubs is an alternative that is accessible to you. All Sapphire Spas come with an inbuilt water heater as standard, making them the perfect option for people looking for warm water immersion therapy.

A nearby outdoor shower will do the trick for a fast cold ‘plunge pool’ cool off if you don’t want to set up an ice bath specifically for this.

Although our spas with a heat and cool pump connected will also cool your water for a cold water immersion experience, they are not designed for rapid temperature changes; handy to keep your spa pool or swim spa at a lower temperature though, so it can be used throughout Summer to cool off in like a swimming pool.

Plunge Pools

Some of our plunge pools that are best for hot water immersion therapy

Plunge Pools

Sapphire Spas plunge pools offer a year-round alternative to traditional swimming pools. With efficient heating systems, you can keep the pool warm in winter and cool it down in summer. Additionally, including swim jets allows for light exercise or fun water play for kids.

Final Thoughts on Hot and Cold Water Immersion Therapy

Hot and cold water immersion therapy offers some fantastic health benefits that everyone should have access to. Whether it’s sore muscles from footy training or your anxiety that was triggered at work, coming home and being able to receive your treatment from the comfort of your own backyard will encourage you to use it more often.