Outdoor Sauna & Cold Plunge – The Benefits & How It Works

cold plunge in lake ice water

What are the Benefits of Outdoor sauna and cold plunge? How do two contrasting extremes work so well together? And, what are the benefits? When the intense heat of a sauna meets the invigorating chill of a cold plunge – magic happens! Buckle up and enjoy the ride. This article covers everything you need to know about outdoor sauna and cold plunge.

Why Do People Cold Plunge When Using Sauna?

Combining outdoor sauna and cold plunge is one of the most intriguing customs of Nordic cultures – the birthplace of the outdoor sauna. The cold plunge sauna routine has been practiced for centuries and is a common sight in modern gyms and spas. All you have to do is spend some time working up a sweat in the intense heat of a sauna. Then, step outside and plunge your whole body into cold water. The shock to the system is powerful, invigorating, and refreshing.

Benefits of Cold Plunge & Outdoor Sauna

woman relaxing in a sauna

What are the benefits of combining outdoor sauna and cold plunge? While relaxing in the heat of a sauna sounds tempting and relaxing for many individuals, jumping into a tub of cold water is a step too far for many. A cold plunge involves immersing your body in cold water for a brief period of time. It is also known as a cold bath or cold immersion.

The water in a cold plunge is much lower temperature than regular body temperature. Typically, the water ranges from 50°F (10°C) right down to freezing temperatures. The practice of combining outdoor sauna with cold plunge is believed to offer a wide range of health benefits, see below.

Increased Circulation and Blood Flow

One of the top benefits of jumping in a sauna and immersing in cold water is – increased circulation and blood flow. Alternating between the heat of a sauna and the cold temperatures of icy water promotes the expansion and contraction of blood vessels. Blood vessels expand while in the sauna and then contract when immersed in a cold bath. This cycle is believed to improve blood circulation and boost oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles and tissues. Win, win.


Speeds Up Muscle Recovery

Sauna and cold plunge are great for muscle recovery. Immersion in cold water is well known to reduce inflammation and relieve muscle soreness. This is great for athletes after an intense workout. The practice alleviates muscle fatigue and speeds up recovery.

Stimulates Immune System

cold plunge in a lake

The sudden change in body temperature is believed to stimulate the immune system. When you work up a sweat in an outdoor sauna and step outside to jump in a cold plunge – the sudden temperature change may boost your immune system’s function over time. Making it more robust and responsive.

Mental Refreshment

The practice of alternating between a hot sauna and cold water immersion is an invigorating sensory experience. The shock to the system boosts mental alertness and revitalizes your whole system. It’s a bit like pressing the reset button on your bodily senses and starting afresh. If you need some mental clarity work up a sweat in an outdoor sauna and then hit the cold bath.

Endorphin Surge

Looking for an endorphin hit? Look no further. Cold water plunge and outdoor sauna are your friends. The shocking change in temperature triggers a flood of endorphins to be released in the brain. These are the feel-good hormones. And when they’re released – you feel great! They’re also natural pain and stress relievers. Alternating the hot and cold of sauna and a cold bath fosters a profound sense of relaxation and well-being.

System Detoxification

Combining cold plunge and hot sauna may play a role in stimulating a system detox. The sweltering heat of a sauna and the icy temperature of a cold bath promote sweat production and are believed to improve lymphatic circulation. This may facilitate the elimination of toxins from your body via increased sweating and enhanced lymph flow.

Improved Cardiovascular Health

man and woman standing outside an outdoor sauna

There’s no doubt. Alternating between hot sauna and a cold plunge certainly gets the heart racing. And, this is believed to stimulate the cardiovascular system and potentially improve overall heart health. Good news for individuals with high blood pressure. As blood vessels expand in the heat of a sauna and contract a cold plunge – it can promote more efficient blood flow and enhance the cardiovascular system’s resilience. This may play a role in boosting long-term heart health.


Outdoor Sauna & Cold Plunge Safety Considerations

cold plunge in the outdoors

If you’re planning on enjoying some outdoor sauna and cold plunge there are some basic safety considerations you should bear in mind. This way you’ll get the most from your session and avoid any safety issues, see below.


Hydration is key when using a sauna and cold plunge. Especially for a sauna. Surprisingly, both saunas and cold plunges can lead to significant fluid loss through sweating and increased heart rate. Ensure you’re well-hydrated before, during, and after your session to prevent dehydration. For more see – how much water should you drink in a sauna.

Start Slow & Ease In

If you’re new to outdoor saunas and cold plunges start slow and ease yourself gently in. Begin with short sessions and lower temperatures. Gradually increase the time and temperature as your body becomes accustomed to the changes.

And, only stay in for as long as feels comfortable. A gentle gradual approach reduces the risk of adverse reactions.  For more, check out our guide to Best Temperature for Cold Plunge.

Underlying Health Conditions

If you have pre-existing medical conditions, such as cardiovascular issues, respiratory disorders, or skin complaints, you should consult a healthcare professional before using a sauna or cold plunge. Extreme temperature changes can adversely affect certain conditions, and professional guidance is key to staying safe

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Make sure you wear appropriate clothing inside the sauna. Towels and swimwear work well. And, bring some comfortable footwear to wear while moving between the sauna and cold plunge bath. Very cold surfaces can cause discomfort or injury, so protection is essential. For more, check out – what to wear in a sauna.

Emergency Plan

lady smiling and gesturing happily

Always have an emergency plan. If something goes wrong and you need help – make sure someone knows you’re using the sauna and cold plunge. Set up a way to contact them if needed. Keep a phone or other communication device nearby in case of any unexpected issues. This way you can easily call for help.

Cold Plunge Water Temperature

Ensure the cold water temperature is low – but not too low. It’s crucial the water temperature is within a safe range. Extremely cold water can lead to shock and hypothermia. Two nasty conditions you need to avoid. Aim for a water temperature of around 50°F (10°C).

For more information on how to stay safe when using an outdoor sauna – check out Outdoor Sauna Safety.  And, for tips and cold water safety, check out our full guide on Cold Plunge Safety.


About the Author


• Sauna Specialist

Meet Jake, a man with a passion for sauna therapy. Jake’s background is in science. And, his passion is wellness and basketball. Growing up in Orlando Florida, Jake enrolled in Florida International University where he graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences.

As a young man, he worked in the spa and wellness center at the renowned Breakers Palm Beach luxury hotel. Here he developed his skills and understanding of client-centered wellness delivery. Upon graduating from FIU he took up a research position focusing on the application and practical effects of steam therapy.

His research has contributed to advancing the understanding of steam sauna therapy and how it can be applied in the occupational health environment. His work in this area has been officially recognized for its impact on the field.

Jake is a devoted fan of the Orlando Magic basketball team. When not working and advancing his research he enjoys attending games at the Kia Center in downtown Orlando. He also likes to remain active in his local sports community and volunteers as a basketball coach for his local youth team.

With his background in scientific research and passion for wellness, Jake is a valuable addition to the Home Sauna Heaven writer’s team where he shares his knowledge and understanding of sauna therapy, steam sauna therapy, and how they can be used for best effect.