In the coming months and years, trust me, you'll be hearing a lot more about cold exposure and it's benefits on your health. It's already picking up steam on most forms of social media - with people posting photos and videos of them taking ice baths or doing cryotherapy.
Cold exposure as a form of therapy, or being used as a "health tonic", is nothing new - it's been around for centuries. Yet, it's only now that it's becoming mainstream. It can be done in a few different ways, but most people get their cold exposure therapy one of two ways ...
Two Common Forms Of Cold Exposure
Cryotherapy involves the use of standing in a chamber where the air is cooled down, using liquid nitrogen, to around -93 to -115 degrees celsius (-200 to -240f) for around 30 seconds - 1min. This must be performed under the guidance of a technician, and never alone. There is, without a doubt, a price tag attached to this service.
2.) Cold Showers/Ice Baths:
The classic, and FREE, option for cold exposure therapy is to take a cold shower or ice bath. Depending on your experience with cold exposure will depend on the duration of time that you'll be exposed to the cold water, usually ranging anywhere from 30 sec, all the way up to 8 mins.
But What The Hell Is The Benefit Of Being Cold?
I'm sure you're not fully down with the idea of getting cold on purpose. I get it, who the hell wants to be cold - it sucks. But if you understand the benefits of cold exposure therapy, in the right dose, you'll be much more likely to want to add it to your training routine.
1.) Fat Burning Effect
We have two types of fat in our bodies, white fat (the kind of body fat you're all familiar with) and brown fat. When we regularly expose ourselves to the cold, we increase the amount of "brown fat" in our bodies. Brown fat is fat that is rich in mitochondria, giving it a brown appearance. Brown fat burns calories for energy in order to keep us warm. In fact, brown fat creates more than 300x more heat than any other tissue in the body. Cold exposure therapy helps increase the amount of brown fat we have in our bodies, which in turn helps us burn more calories during the day and at rest, and improves your lean body mass - even without exercise!
2.) Increases Blood Flow
When you expose yourself to the cold, your blood vessels constrict and blood is forced towards the organs of the body. When this happens, your body works harder to circulate the blood and forces the arteries to become more efficient and moving blood. When you're no longer exposed to the cold, and your body returns to its normal temperature, it will be more effective at moving blood around the body.
3.) Increased Recovery From Training
Training is a stress on the body, a good stress, and you need to recover from training. Cold exposure therapy helps speed up the process of recovery, after hard bouts of exercise, by reducing inflammation and increasing circulation. However, it's best to not expose yourself to the cold for at least 1 hour after your training.
You need the stress response from your training, in order for your body to change and adapt. Cold exposure therapy, performed right after training, reduces the good stress response from your training and reduces the adaptation to the hard session you put it through. If you wait 1 hour after training before performing cold exposure therapy, you'll allow your body to get the benefit from the "good stress" imposed on it during your training session, and recover faster from the anti-inflammatory effect of cold therapy.
4.) Reduces Depression
In recent studies, cold exposure therapy has been shown to induce and anti-depressive effect. Depression may be linked to inflammation, cold exposure therapy helps reduce inflation - therefor it helps improve the negative effects of depression.
Cold exposure therapy also sends a truck load of electrical impulses to the peripheral nerve endings in the brain, through the nerve endings all over your skin, and produces a natural "high" or "pick-me-up".
How To Implement Cold Exposure Therapy
1.) Take a warm shower, for however long is needed
2.) Finish with a cold shower for 30 seconds
3.) Every week, increase your time in the cold shower by 30 seconds, continue on this way until you're at 5mins