I’m not usually one for click bait and anyone who follows my work will know I don’t really like to focus primarily on weight loss when it comes to health and fitness but there are so many benefits of cold therapy that if I can lure more people to read this by using such tactics then so be it. It is also true….
Benefits Cold Exposure
Our body is always striving for homeostasis, (maintaining its core temperature at 37 degrees Celsius), therefore when we exposure our bodies to cold temperatures, it will do everything it can to stop us from getting too cold. It does this by producing heat via a process called ‘thermogenesis’. Thermogenesis requires energy which results in a rise in our metabolic rate (which means we burn more calories).
Cold thermogenesis activates our bodies brown andipose fat stores (sometimes known as our ‘good’ fat). Brown fat has a high number of mitochondria (which produce energy) so we definitely want as much of it as possible, unfortunately brown fat and mitochondria decrease with age. Cold exposure has been shown to increase the body’s production a brown fat so can be used as a longevity tactic as well as helping to maintain a healthy metabolism.
You don’t need to have a cold shower or bath to experience thermogenesis, simply going for a walk in a T-Shirt when it is cold will produce the same benefits. Save yourself some money in the winter and keep your heating off, win-win.
It’s well known that many professional sports people use ice baths to aid in recovery after intense competition. Cold exposure helps to aid recovery by reducing swelling and promoting the movement of fluids to transfer water and metabolic waste products out of the system. There is evidence that using cold too soon after exercise can actually interfere with your body’s pro-inflammatory response and negate the benefits of the exercise. You should wait at least an hour after exercise before cold exposure.
Cold therapy also increases the production of collagen (needed for healthy skin, hair and joints) as well as slowing down collagenase (an enzyme that rapidly breaks down collagen). Not only this, cold therapy also inhibits cortisol (the stress hormone) which is also responsible for breaking down collagen.
Our body temperature drops in the evening which signals to the body that it is time to sleep. Exercising late in the evening or having a bedroom that is too warm can inhibit this and cause problems with sleeping. Having a cold shower before bed can help cool your core temperature and help to promote sleep.
The cold water exposure from the shower can also help trigger melatonin (our sleep hormone) release, further aiding in improved time it takes to fall asleep as well as improved sleep quality.
Cold exposure produces feel-good endorphins and increases production of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter involved in your sleep-wake cycle and has profound effects on energy, focus, mood and sleep patterns. This may be because of norepinephrine’s role in neurogenesis – the production of new neurons in the brain – which links to improved mood and memory.
Boosts Immune System
A study found that taking daily cold showers increased the numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells (compared to people who took hot showers). The investigators at Britain’s Thrombosis Research Institute suggested that as the body tries to warm itself during and after a cold shower, metabolic rate speeds up and activates the immune system, which leads to the release of more white blood cells.
I have been taking a 4-minute cold shower each morning for the past 3 months and can honestly say they are worth the initial discomfort. I feel more awake and actually warmed up from within. They are great for hangovers or if you just feel sluggish in the afternoon.
I am something of an extremist so I opted to just get straight into the cold shower, I do this having performed 4 rounds of Wim Hof breathing (I shall save this for another post). If you would like to ease yourself in a little more, you can begin by having your usual hot shower and then turning the temperature down for the final 30 seconds and build up from there.
The title claims of losing 20lbs in a month came from Ray Cronise's 'Shiver System' in which he advocates a 5 minute cold shower, alternating between 20 seconds cold and 10 seconds warm. Same time intervals as a Tabata workout! Why not give it a try and let me know how you get on.