Extreme athlete Wim Hof (aka The Iceman) is a one-man phenom who has done a lot when it comes to “mainstreaming” the concept of deep breathing and intense cold exposure for improving overall health and building up the immune system. And now, as spa-goers, gym members, and other wellness seekers begin emerging from their homes, there’s a whole new wellness experience ready to greet them—the Snow Room.
The use of cryotherapy for treating inflammation and improving blood flow is well documented, as are the benefits to both mind and body of traditional hot/cold contrast therapy (such as a hydrothermal spa circuit that combines heat—typically a sauna—with cold exposure). Even moving from normal room temperature to the cold is enough to put the body through “positive stress,” taking us out of our comfort zones to help build better overall health. (Another common example of a positive-stress practice is intermittent fasting.) The idea is to make the body a little bit uncomfortable now and then, in a nod to our hunter/gatherer ancestors who often went without food and lacked the comfort of a climate-controlled environment.
Snow is the New Cold Shower
All of this has meant that cold-water showers, icy plunges, and cryotherapy chambers are having a real moment. However, jumping in an icy-cold shower or bath or standing naked in a freezing cold cryotherapy chamber isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—and can make the body far more than a bit uncomfortable. The shock of freezing water can turn off even the most dedicated wellness enthusiast. In contrast, the soft, dry cold (14 to 23°F) of a snow room is a much more welcoming, even playful, environment. And it’s all natural—no chemicals or additives are used to make indoor snow—just plain drinking water and air. Another environmental bonus: the heat generated from creating the snow can be recovered and redirected to heat pools and showers.
Why Add Cold to Your Wellness Routine?
Cold immersion is an age-old tradition. The Finnish are the first known culture to actively use hot and cold contrast therapy as part of a cleansing and bathing ritual. After spending time in a hot Finnish sauna, bathers would leave the hot, smokey cabin, sweating profusely, and then take a “roll in the snow.” This would both cool them down and serve to cleanse the dirt from their bodies.
It’s a bathing tradition that evolved out of the basic need to cool down and get clean. However, the shock of cold was also extremely invigorating. Today, numerous studies exist on the ways hot/cold contrast therapy promotes heart health, detoxifies, reduces inflammation, and even reduces blood pressure. In fact, the 2021 Global Wellness Trend: “The Future of Immune Health: Stop Boosting, Start Balancing,” talks about a resurgence in voluntary positive-stress experiences like hot and cold contrast therapy to help build and balance the immune system.
So just as a wellness area might feature a plunge pool, an ice bucket, or cold-water experience shower, there’s now the option of the more pleasant, less body-shocking dry cold of a snow room. In replicating the traditional Nordic “roll in the snow,” there’s an added wellness bonus: delight—who doesn’t love a snow angel? Snow simply makes people happy, bringing out their playful, inner child. Cold, crisp air, which is great for the lungs, combined with real snow makes it a one-of-a-kind experience. And consider the wow factor in places where snowfall doesn’t exist at all.
How a Snow Room Works
Immediately after entering a snow room, the body begins to react to the cold, causing vascular constriction or a narrowing of the blood vessels and blood flow centralized to protect vital organs.
The contrasting vasodilation—or expansion of the blood vessels—that occurs in the heat of a sauna or by exercising is followed by the vasoconstriction from the cold, resulting in increased blood flow to the skin, muscles, and tissue. According to studies, this is particularly beneficial for sufferers of hypertension, especially if repeated on a regular basis. In addition, using a snow room in combination with a Finnish sauna results in improved sleep, significant pain reduction, better moods, and an increased amount of energy, as well as stress relief, improved breathing, softer skin, and a healthier sense of self.
Harnessing the Power of a Snowflake
The dry cold of a snow room is more welcoming than a wet and cold plunge pool or shower, so it’s easier to spend more quality time in the cold, maximizing the benefits. Whether you choose snow for active recovery or use it to cool down your extremities (legs/feet and arms/hands) in between heat treatments, you’ll reap both immediate and long-term benefits by adding cold to your wellness routine.