A plunge pool is a small, shallow pool built for the purpose of lounging, wading, and cooling off instead of for swimming and exercising. Some homeowners prefer them because of their lower costs to build, smaller sizes, easier maintenance, and reduced water requirements. A few companies specialize in the building and manufacture of plunge pools, like New Hampshire-based Soake Pools, which offers pre-cast concrete plunge pools in various sizes. Most plunge pools are shallow due to their limited dimensions, although Soake sells a deep-plunge model.
Some plunge pools are situated next to outdoor spas or hot tubs for the purpose of cold-plunge therapy. Small cold-water pools have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and were also popular with the Ancient Romans. Many swimmers and athletes like to plunge into a pool of cold water after a heated workout or sauna or spa session, believing it has therapeutic benefits such as reducing muscle inflammation, pain, and quickening recovery time.
What Is Cold-Plunge Therapy?
Cold-plunge therapy, also known as cold hydrotherapy or cold-water therapy, involves immersing yourself in water that's between roughly 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Advocates believe this can help to reduce inflammation, raise energy levels, deepen sleep, and improve circulation, but more scientific research still must be done on the process.
Popular in Finland, winter swimming involves plunging into ice-cold natural waters, which many practitioners believe is beneficial to their health, according to the International Journal of Circumpolar Health. Swimmers report that these cold dips help with fatigue, relieve pain, improve mood, and boost self-esteem. Some feel that it is good for their skin.
Also referred to as temperature-cycling, the hot-and-cold therapeutic experience can be achieved at home, with the help of a professional for building, installation, plumbing, and temperature control. The benefits of cryotherapy — the local or general use of low temperatures in medical procedures or therapies — have not yet been fully researched. Before trying any kind of cold-water swimming or therapy, consult your doctor.
Larger than a hot tub, Soake's pre-cast more popular models measure 7 x 13 feet and are 5 feet deep. The pools are available in two different options:
- A fusion of minerals with a small amount of chlorine.
- Saltwater, operated by a chlorine generator that creates natural chlorine, just like the larger saltwater pools.
Colorado-based Diamond Spas offers cold-plunge aquatic vessels made of stainless steel and copper and available in a variety of styles. Among their products are cold-plunge pools, Japanese baths, copper spas, and contrast pools. Also known as hot and cold combination spas, contrast models alternate between hot and cold temperatures for dual therapeutic benefits and joint and muscle recovery.
Popular in France and Europe
Not surprisingly, plunge pools are popular in France, where many fashion trends and innovations originate. The French like this type of swimming pool — known as a piscine — because:
- They are economical — smaller and more shallow means it will cost less.
- Because the pools are smaller, there is less to maintain.
- Plunge pools can fit in small gardens, patios, or other limited outdoor spaces.
- Smaller means not as much water is used; an environmental choice in drought-affected regions.
- It requires a smaller amount of chemicals.
- Less space to heat — making it a more environmental and budget-friendly choice.
Great for Exercising
The smaller pools that aren't intended for cold therapy are good for low-impact aqua exercises — the type that involves focused stretches involving arms, legs, and abdominal muscles rather than the cardio benefits of lap swimming.
A plunge pool in Florida might be completely different than a plunge pool in Australia. Down under, plunge pools can be equipped with jets that provide targeted massages while you float or sit in the pool. You can also opt for a whirlpool effect to experience a gentle full-body massage. Australian plunge pools can have resistance jets installed for swimming laps in place—like a swim spa or spool in the United States.
Stephens, Jessica M., et al. Cold-Water Immersion for Athletic Recovery: One Size Does Not Fit All. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, vol. 12, no. 1, 2017, pp. 2–9., doi:10.1123/ijspp.2016-0095
Huttunen, Pirkko, et al. Winter Swimming Improves General Well-Being. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, vol. 63, no. 2, 2004, pp. 140–144., doi:10.3402/ijch.v63i2.17700
Bleakley, Chris, et al. Whole-Body Cryotherapy: Empirical Evidence and Theoretical Perspectives. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 2014, p. 25., doi:10.2147/oajsm.s41655