Winter impacts our bodies in many negative ways: dry skin, chilblains and respiratory difficulties, not to mention the stress, chronic fatigue and mood-related problems that can plague some people due to lack of exposure to the sun. Scandinavian baths are among the most effective relaxation and well-being options for regaining physical and mental vitality, especially in the depths of winter.
A three-part treatment
Scandinavian or Nordic baths work on the principle of hydrotherapy, a type of treatment involving stimulating the body with alternating hot and cold temperatures. The contrast between the hot and cold seems to be therapeutically beneficial.
This method involves three phases, as Émilie Mazet of Scandinave Les Bains in Old Montréal explains: “First, the body needs to be warmed up for 10 to 15 minutes, in a sauna or steam bath, for example. Under the effect of heat, blood vessels dilate, body temperature rises, perspiration occurs, and the heart beats faster. To stop this process, the next step involves a few seconds in contact with a source of cold, which can take the form of a cold plunge or a very cold shower. This completes the hot-cold contrast. Finally, the last phase is devoted to relaxation. Too many people neglect this step, but it is essential, as this is when the pores close, the heart rate returns to normal, and the muscles truly relax.” This three-phase sequence should be repeated three to five times for optimal effect.
The body benefits in several ways from Scandinavian baths; for example, the quality of sleep is improved, stress is reduced and an overall feeling of well-being is felt. “We suggest coming to the Nordic spa once or twice a week,” says Émilie Mazet. “This way, we can get more heat into our body and regulate our body temperature, things that are really needed in the middle of winter. And then there’s the positive psychological effect of spending time in hot baths and relaxing. It’s a cocooning effect that causes us to generally feel better and healthier when our visit to the baths is over.”
Nordic treatments are not recommended for pregnant women or people suffering from heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes.