The importance of cooling down


Not quite convinced yet of the importance of cooling down? After fifteen minutes in the sauna, your body temperature has already risen by 1.5°C. Obviously, you need to get rid of this extra heat, but relaxing in the Jacuzzi for half an hour won’t do the trick.

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The rise in your core body temperature triggers several natural processes in your body. To counteract this increase in temperature, your body responds by opening the pores of your skin and starts to sweat. Having a cold shower causes your pores to close again. Still sweating after your shower? That means you didn’t spend long enough under the cold water and so, didn’t cool down properly. 

Having a sauna the right way has several benefits. We have listed them for you below. 

Alternating between hot and cold improves your circulation. The heat causes your blood vessels to dilate, resulting in increased blood flow. Increased blood flow means that more oxygen and more nutrients are being supplied to your organs and more waste products are being removed. This also makes your detoxifying organs, such as your liver, kidneys and lymph glands, work harder. Exposure to cold causes your blood vessels to constrict again. If this didn’t happen, your blood pressure could become too high. If you have a headache after your sauna, it may well be because you didn’t cool down properly and so, your blood pressure is still too high. Acclimating your body to these changes in temperature improves your resistance to illness, which makes you less susceptible to colds and flu. What’s more, improved blood flow in organs and muscles has other benefits too. One of them is the faster removal of lactic acid from your muscles after exercise. 

The shock of being exposed to cold stimulates your body to produce endorphins. These hormones are also known as feel-good hormones and they are a great ally in the fight against stress. They also help you sleep better and send a signal to your brain so you feel less pain. After a cold shower, you feel totally relaxed and re-energised!

What’s the best way to cool down?

The cool-down process should be as long as the amount of time you spent in the sauna. So, fifteen minutes of working up a sweat in the sauna means fifteen minutes of cooling down afterwards. There are several ways to do this. A walk in the fresh air, for instance, can already help you cool down quite a bit. And, because of the heat exposure in the sauna, your alveoli, the tiny air sacs in the lungs, are fully inflated, making this the perfect time to breathe in extra oxygen. But a short walk is nowhere near enough to cool down completely. You would have to go for a really long walk for that. Also, going for a walk in a heatwave is, of course, pretty pointless. 

A cold shower, cold plunge bucket or cold-water hose, you decide which of these will be your favourite way to cool down. Going for the cold-water hose? Start by aiming it at your right foot, which is the furthest away from your heart. Work your way up your thigh, moving on to your left foot and thigh, your hands, then up to your heart. And, don’t forget your head! 

One common mistake a lot of people make is to jump into the plunge pool straight after their sauna. That’s unhygienic. It’s better to have a (lukewarm) shower first to wash off the sweat before going into the cold plunge pool. Again, don’t forget to immerse your head.

Another very important thing is to have a little rest period afterwards instead of immediately going on to the next sauna. Also, make sure you drink enough water during your break to rehydrate your body. Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks are not recommended during this time.

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