So recently we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people on social media plunging into cold baths, lakes & cryotherapy chambers. Apart from the initial buzz of doing something that takes your body out of its comfort zone, there are also some huge health benefits to this practice. Here are just a few of them to potentially convince you to make your first cold plunge session.
It activates AMPK, which regulates metabolism and could potentially be linked to helping with weight loss
Coldwater therapy activates AMPK (the metabolism “Master Switch” ) that regulates the way our bodies use energy. This includes using stored fat for energy, reducing blood sugar levels, increasing the amount of mitochondria within the cell (the energy producers in cells), and decreasing inflammation. It also activates good brown fat cells that keep us warm. And also helps burn up white fat that’s harmful and is caused by a sedentary lifestyle and overeating.
Cold water therapy decreases inflammation, post-exercise muscle soreness (DOMS)
Athletes in recent years have been turning to cold water therapy to help aid their recovery. The reason for this is that cold water has been shown to reduce the severity of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS). If you’ve had a session or training day that is if high strain on the body or are a newbie to fitness and just starting out in your journey you will know that feeling we’re talking about. Try cold water immersion.
Improves blood circulation and lymphatic drainage
Have you ever noticed that your body turns pink when cold? This is because cold stimulates blood flow. When the body gets cold, blood vessels are restricted this is called vasoconstriction and blood is shunted to the vital organs. As a result, the heart has to work a bit harder to circulate blood throughout the body to warm you up and shunt oxygen and nutrients to all your cells. Once you step out of being immersed in the cold the blood vessels open this is called vasodilation and the blood from from vital organs is pumped back to your muscles with new nutrition dense blood.
The lymphatic system plays a critical role in removing waste and toxins from your body. An accumulation of toxins can cause cellular damage, inflammation, and premature aging. Coldwater also causes the lymphatic vessels to contract which helps flush waste out of the muscles and tissues.
Cold-water boosts mood and may help depression
Plunging into cold water can also help your mood because it releases endorphins and noradrenaline that make you feel happy and alive. In 2007, studies found that cold showers helped alleviate the symptoms of depression even in those who were not diagnosed with mental health issues. If you’re feeling down, try having a swim in the cold ocean or even a short cold shower. Apart from all the physiological benefits, you’ll also experience the psychological benefits of taking on a challenge.
What are the benefits of sauna heat therapy?
If you’ve ever been in a sauna, you’ll know how relaxing they can be. Especially, if you’ve been under large amounts of stress. The heat from the sauna improves circulation, eases pain, and can encourage the body to relax. It’s also been shown to improve cardiovascular health on a similar scale to a cardio workout. And using a sauna regularly has been shown to influence longevity.
One study was done on over 2300 individuals aged 42-60 years to determine the effects of frequent sauna use on curbing fatal cardiovascular mortality. The study showed that 4 – 7 sauna sessions weekly for about 11 minutes lowered all causes of mortality. Furthermore, even 1 session a week had significant benefits in mitochondrial health and overall longevity.
How to use cold water and heat therapy in your daily life?
Before you start to implement any of these tips in your daily life, it’s important to check in with your health practitioner, especially if you suffer from a chronic health condition such as cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. If you have the go-ahead, here are a few simple ways to reap the benefits of cold and heat.
One of the easiest ways is to end your hot shower with a cold water show for 3 minutes. Start with a 30-second burst and gradually work your way up to a long shower. Don’t forget to breathe! Check out Wim Hof for more on this
If you’re feeling like a little bit of a challenge, add two bags of ice to your bathtub and immerse yourself in the cold water for a maximum of 10-15 minutes.
Have a weekly sauna session at your local health club or gym. Or, invest in a home sauna or portable sauna suit.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to cryotherapy give this treatment a go. 3 minutes at -110 degrees Celsius is the ultimate challenge but the feeling afterwards can’t be matched.
How does cold therapy work at the molecule level?
What happens to the human body on a molecular level when it experiences an extreme cold? The answer is that it activates so-called “cold shock proteins”. Many of these proteins are always present in the body. However, extreme temperatures spike their levels.
Why is that? In short, these proteins protect the body against excessive stress in extraordinary situations. So when the brain senses that we’re entering one of those situations, shock protein production kicks into high gear as a protective measure.
In studies, mice afflicted with an Alzheimer’s-like disease were exposed to extreme cold in the early stages of the disease. The result was a massive production of cold-shock proteins, which slowed the disease’s progression. The protein acted as a mechanism that protected and shielded important nerves in the brain from the degenerative damage that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease. Because of their dramatic changes in expression in response to cold stress, these proteins may be involved in the underlying mechanisms by which cold stress might provide health benefits.
Further cold therapy benefit?
Humans store active brown fat tissue (BAT). Brown fat is active when burning calories for energy. Cold exposure increases BAT activity which leads to increased calorie expenditure. A lack of BAT has been linked with obesity. In one study, subjects were exposed to an environmental temperature of 15–16°C for 6 hours a day for 10 consecutive days. Afterward, individuals showed an 80% increase in their metabolism, activated thermogenesis, and BAT activity. Now there are many other ways to combat obesity and weight loss but I just wanted to pop this one in here for those readers that want to increase the rate of their fat loss.
I’m a huge user of hot and cold therapies and really believe it has improved my lifestyle, mindset & health. I urge you to give at least one of these therapies a go for a 4 week period. And just see the adaptions and benefits your body a mind feel over the course of the month.