Whether you are exposing yourself to the cold through ice baths or cold showers, cold exposure has been shown to have numerous health benefits for not only your mental health but for your physical health.
Cold exposure should be integrated into many people’s routines, and here is why:
The most well-known benefit of cold exposure is the reduction of inflammation within the body. Inflammation is the body’s normal response to infection or injury. However, chronic inflammation can cause a range of health issues. Many of these health issues include cardiovascular disease, arthritis, or even cancer. Cold exposure is shown to activate the human body in ways we never thought possible. It activates the body’s anti-inflammatory response, which in turn reduces inflammation and improves overall health.
Looking for an immune system boost?
Cold exposure can boost the immune system naturally. When exposed to extreme cold, your body produces more white blood cells. White blood cells are those that help fight off infections and diseases. With an increased immune response, your body can protect you against many illnesses such as the common cold or more serious conditions like E. coli.
Cold exposure can also help your body’s circulation. When your body is exposed to the cold, your blood vessels constrict, which helps improve oxygen and blood flow. This can improve blood flow to certain muscles and organs, and can be helpful to reduce muscle soreness and improve physical performance.
The benefits of cold exposure do not stop there. It can also have mental health benefits. Such as a reduction in stress and anxiety. When the body is exposed to cold, the body releases hormones and neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and adrenaline. This increase in dopamine after cold exposure can lead to an elevated mood and a sense of ease.
Want more energy and more focus?
With chemicals such as adrenaline and norepinephrine being released in the brain from cold exposure, an increase in focus and energy is caused. These neurochemicals can also help us stay alert that elevated for hours after the initial cold exposure. Not only this, but cold exposure can also help build resilience. By forcing yourself and pushing your mind to embrace the cold, you train your mind with resilience. Building this resilience can help you in real-life situations. Such as keeping a calm and clear mind in hard situations.
How can you incorporate cold exposure into your daily routine?
A simple way is to start taking cold showers. To feel the benefits of cold exposure, you only need 11 minutes per week of cold exposure according to Dr Andrew Huberman. Huberman recommends that even if the water is uncomfortably cold, it is safe to stay in for a minute or two.
Cold exposure is not easy at first. However, the more you do it, the easier it will become. Your body will create more brown fat in your body. Brown fat is a good kind of fat that helps store more energy and regulate your body’s temperature.
With that said, the first week of this experience will be more uncomfortable than the second. For the first week, you should use a 1–2-minute timer and breathe deeply when you are exposed to the cold. Another thing you can do is start with warm water and slowly move into the very cold temperatures. However, it is recommended to treat it as if you were ripping off a band-aid. It is better to just go straight into the cold.
Your body and mind will want to fight the cold at first. You will want to get out immediately and you will have to fight against your mind. But ultimately, it is breaking those barriers that can lead to some truly beautiful physical and mental health benefits.
If you want even more benefits, you can try using an ice bath. An ice bath covers more areas of your body than a cold shower. Thus allowing for a bigger reduction of inflammation.
Believe it or not, cold exposure has been used for centuries and has so many physical and mental health benefits. As mentioned earlier, it can reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, improve cognitive function, improve blood circulation, create resilience, and even help with depression and anxiety.
However, with any new activity, you should always contact your primary health provider and talk to them about the practice, asking whether or not it is safe for you.
Proof in the Pudding: Wim Hof
Wim Hof is a Dutch man who has shown us the capabilities of the human body, and the benefits of the cold by using his own body for experimentation. Such as climbing Mt. Everest with only shorts on, sitting in ice water for 1 hour and 52 minutes, and even completing a marathon above the Artic Circle wearing only shoes and shorts. Wim is also a massive advocate for mental health, regularly helping and inspiring thousands of people in person and online with his cold exposure methods.
Wim Hof has proven many of the benefits of cold exposure. Wim Hof was sent to a laboratory that was carefully monitored by doctors. These doctors injected Wim Hof with an endotoxin. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Wim experienced absolutely zero side effects from the endotoxin. His body did not give normal responses to the endotoxin like most would. His body didn’t show any signs of having an endotoxin within it. Wim didn’t have a fever at all, chills, or any sign of flu-like symptoms. His body temperature also remained the same throughout the whole process. The results of the study were then published to the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers concluded that with Wim Hof’s breathing techniques and cold exposure, he could suppress his immune system.
What is amazing about this is the fact that some amounts of exposure to the cold can help many people with conditions such as autoimmune and other diseases. Cold exposure is a simple yet effective technique that could potentially benefit your life.
So, will you be trying cold exposure?
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