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What is Contrast Therapy?

Wellness Feature

Written by Lauren Hunsberger

The concept is simple:

Hot water opens your blood vessels and cold water constricts them. The effect that occurs when you purposefully move from one temperature to the next is called contrast therapy, and it promotes better circulation and healing, not to mention increased elasticity in the musculature of the cardiovascular system.


For decades, this concept has been used on injuries (alternating the ice pack for the heat pack), but it actually does wonders when applied to the whole body. From beginner to expert, we offer the following ways to practice this technique.

Home Shower

Turn your shower to hot for two minutes. Then turn it to cold for 30 seconds. Repeat two to three times. Goal: two minutes hot, then two minutes cold.

Steam room—cold pool

Sit in a steam room, sauna or hot tub for 10 to 15 minutes. Shower, then jump in a cool (nonheated) pool for five minutes. Repeat two times.

Alpine hike and swim

Hike to your favorite alpine lake. Jump in. Hike back. The most extreme version is a snowshoe hike to some hot springs. See page 58.

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