Cold Exposure Therapy – Is It Worth Trying?
Cold exposure therapy, also known as cryotherapy, has been gaining popularity in recent years as a way to improve overall health and well-being. It’s been popularized by wellness celebrities like “The Iceman” Wim Hof and lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss. Even Kristen Bell has documented her morning cold plunges on social media!
What Is It?
The therapy involves exposing the body to extremely cold temperatures for a brief period of time, usually through the use of a cold shower, ice bath or cryotherapy chamber. While the idea of exposing oneself to such low temperatures may seem counterintuitive, research has shown that cold exposure therapy can offer a wide range of benefits.
What Are the Benefits?
One of the primary benefits of cold exposure therapy is its ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders. By exposing the body to cold temperatures, cold exposure therapy can help reduce inflammation, which can in turn help prevent the development of these conditions.
Reducing inflammation can also improve overall skin health, with cold exposure therapy proving to be an effective treatment for certain skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Another benefit of cold exposure therapy is its ability to improve cardiovascular health. Cold exposure causes the blood vessels to constrict, which can help improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular conditions. Endurance levels and overall physical performance can also benefit. When exposed to cold temperatures, the body produces more adrenaline and norepinephrine, which can help increase energy levels and improve overall physical performance.
Mental health may also get a beneficial boost. Cold exposure has been shown to help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, and have a positive effect on overall mood. Many people report that starting their day with cold therapy shocks them awake and makes them feel more alert. Not to mention, it’s likely the most uncomfortable part of the day so everything else seems easier in comparison!
Cold therapy has also been shown to aid in weight loss by boosting the body’s metabolism. In order to maintain homeostasis in cold temperatures, the body expends a lot of energy – read: burns fat – to keep the body warm. One study showed that metabolic rate (metabolism) increased by 350 percent. Yes, 350 percent! I had to read it three times to be sure.
It’s important to note that while cold exposure therapy can offer a wide range of benefits, it is not suitable for everyone. People with certain health conditions, such as Raynaud’s disease, should not participate in cold exposure therapy. Start slowly, and with guidance, to allow the body to adapt to the cold temperatures.
How Can I Start?
The good news is, starting cold exposure therapy is incredibly easy and basically free. While there are amazing cold plunges that you can purchase out there – the easiest place to start is with a 15 second to 3 minute cold rinse at the end of your shower. When you’re done cleansing, turn the water to cold and step out. Once the water is cold, step back in. You can use a timer to measure your progress and gradually increase your time.
If you’re looking to try cold exposure for the weight loss and fat burning benefits, try starting your day with 500 milliliters to one liter of ice water. Drink it pretty quickly and go about your morning. This makes me physically shiver so I actually enjoy doing some sort of exercise immediately afterwards to warm up.
Another easy way to implement cold exposure into your life is by placing an ice pack on the back of your neck and shoulders while watching TV or working at a computer.
Cold plunges or ice baths are another great way to try cold exposure therapy. It’s recommended to do these in groups for safety, especially if you’re trying a cold plunge for the first time or if the water is deep enough to be potentially dangerous. If you have a pool, you can take daily 20 minute cold plunges or swims. There are many DIY versions of ice baths, including filling your bathtub with ice, and options to purchase temperature controlled cold plunge tubs. If you live near natural cold water sources, start your day with a cold dip in nature.
Cold exposure therapy is a simple yet effective way to improve overall health and well-being. By exposing the body to cold temperatures for a brief period of time, cold exposure therapy can help reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, boost mental health, aid in weight loss and even improve certain skin conditions. While it’s not suitable for everyone, it is an alternative therapy that has been gaining popularity in recent years backed by scientific evidence. So, is it worth trying? I would vote, yes.