Social Prescribing Sauna and Sea Swims

Escape to the Sauna and Chilled Swims CIC have combined to offer a fully funded course of Sauna and Sea Swim sessions for patients in Cornwall looking to improve specific aspects of their health and wellbeing.   The course is available through your Social Prescriber who is contactable via your local doctors surgery. This post summarises the key findings from various studies on the health benefits of combining sauna and cold water swimming which will help inform patient and health professional alike.

Health Benefits of Sauna and Cold Water Swimming Combined

The combination of sauna use and cold water swimming is growing in popularity across Cornwall and the rest of the UK.  It’s about time, for thousands of years, this amazing practice has been a traditional health boost in many cultures, particularly in Nordic countries. Recent research has explored the potential health benefits of these practices, both individually and in combination. 

Cardiovascular Benefits

Several studies have demonstrated significant cardiovascular benefits from regular sauna bathing and cold water immersion. Sauna use has been shown to improve cardiovascular function, reduce blood pressure, and enhance vascular health. When combined with cold water swimming, these effects are amplified. The alternating heat and cold exposure improve circulation and increase heart rate variability, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health.

Key Studies:

  1. Laukkanen et al. (2018) reviewed the cardiovascular benefits of Finnish sauna and found improved heart function and reduced risk of hypertension when combined with cold immersion .
  2. Radtke et al. (2016) explored the effects of sauna and cold water immersion on patients with heart failure, noting improvements in haemodynamic variables and autonomic nervous system activity .

Metabolic and Hormonal Effects

The combination of sauna and cold water swimming can positively impact metabolic health. The heat from the sauna induces sweating and increases metabolic rate, while the cold water immersion stimulates brown fat activity and improves insulin sensitivity.

Key Studies:

  1. Podstawski et al. (2021) highlighted the endocrine effects of repeated hot thermal stress and cold water immersion, showing significant hormonal benefits, including increased testosterone levels and improved metabolic rate .
  2. Sutkowy et al. (2015) found that cold water swimming post-exercise positively affected the oxidant-antioxidant balance, reducing oxidative stress and enhancing recovery .

Immune System Enhancement

Alternating between sauna and cold water swimming has been found to boost the immune system. The thermal stress from the sauna followed by the cold shock response can enhance immune function by increasing the production of white blood cells and improving the body’s defense mechanisms.

Key Studies:

  1. Dugué and Leppänen (2000) studied the immune response to thermal stress and cold water immersion, observing increased white blood cell counts and improved immune function among regular participants .
  2. Heinonen and Laukkanen (2018) reported similar findings, with improved immune markers in individuals who combined sauna bathing with cold water immersion .

Psychological Benefits

The combination of sauna and cold water swimming is also known for its psychological benefits. These practices can reduce stress, enhance mood, and improve overall mental well-being. The endorphin release from the sauna and the adrenaline surge from the cold water immersion work together to provide a sense of relaxation and euphoria.

Key Studies:

  1. Hussain et al. (2019) conducted a global survey on sauna use, reporting significant psychological benefits, including reduced stress and improved mood .
  2. Kunutsor and Laukkanen (2023) reviewed the combined effects of Finnish sauna bathing and other lifestyle factors, noting enhanced mental health and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety .

Summary of Key Findings

Health AspectKey FindingsKey Studies
Cardiovascular HealthImproved heart function, reduced hypertension, increased heart rate variabilityLaukkanen et al. (2018), Radtke et al. (2016)
Metabolic HealthIncreased metabolic rate, improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced hormonal balancePodstawski et al. (2021), Sutkowy et al. (2015)
Immune SystemIncreased white blood cell production, enhanced immune responseDugué and Leppänen (2000), Heinonen and Laukkanen (2018)
Psychological HealthReduced stress, improved mood, enhanced mental well-beingHussain et al. (2019), Kunutsor and Laukkanen (2023)


The combination of sauna bathing and cold water swimming offers a range of health benefits, including cardiovascular improvements, metabolic enhancements, immune system boosts, and psychological well-being. These practices, rooted in tradition, have now been substantiated by scientific research, highlighting their potential as effective health-promoting activities.

You can apply to join our next course here

NB – All patients taking part in our Sauna and Sea Swimming course should consult their health professional first before joining the next course.


  1. Laukkanen, J.A., Kunutsor, S.K. (2018). Cardiovascular and other health benefits of sauna bathing: a review of the evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
  2. Kunutsor, S.K., Laukkanen, J.A. (2023). Does the combination of Finnish sauna bathing and other lifestyle factors confer additional health benefits? A review of the evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
  3. Radtke, T., Poerschke, D., Wilhelm, M. (2016). Acute effects of Finnish sauna and cold-water immersion on haemodynamic variables and autonomic nervous system activity in patients with heart failure. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
  4. Heinonen, I., Laukkanen, J.A. (2018). Effects of heat and cold on health, with special reference to Finnish sauna bathing. American Journal of Physiology
  5. Sutkowy, P., Woźniak, A., Boraczyński, T. (2015). Postexercise impact of ice-cold water bath on the oxidant-antioxidant balance in healthy men. BioMed Research International
  6. Dugué, B., Leppänen, E. (2000). Adaptation related to cytokines in man: effects of regular swimming in ice‐cold water. Clinical Physiology
  7. Podstawski, R., Borysławski, K. (2021). Endocrine effects of repeated hot thermal stress and cold water immersion in young adult men. American Journal of Men’s Health.
  8. Hussain, J.N., Greaves, R.F., Cohen, M.M. (2019). A hot topic for health: Results of the Global Sauna Survey. Complementary Therapies in Medicine

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