'Why would someone willingly subject himself or herself to the bitter cold?' It may sound uncomfortable, or unusual, but bear with me, as the benefits are numerous!
I will go over the top 12 benefits of cold exposure that not only have been scientifically measured and tested but also experienced by myself and some others who have been exploring cold immersion wholeheartedly. I have no doubt that everyone listening right now can relate to several of these benefits.
1- Reduced Inflammation: Let’s start with inflammation. When you hear the term 'inflammation', you probably think of a swollen ankle after a sprained joint or the redness around a fresh cut. But inflammation goes deeper than that. It plays a significant role in many diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and even depression. Cold exposure, whether it's from a cold plunge or an ice bath or even cold shower, has been proven to significantly reduce inflammation in the body.
2- Chronic Pain Relief: Our second benefit is related to chronic pain. I'll get into my personal experience with this in a future episode, but I'll say this much now: Regular cold exposure has been a game changer for many people. It's a potent, natural painkiller that has been shown to alleviate conditions like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and arthritis.
3- Muscle Recovery: Athletes have long been utilizing cold plunges for faster muscle recovery after intense training or competitions. Renowned athletes such as LeBron James, Christiano Ronaldo, and Novak Djokovic have embraced this practice for years. I personally see much better recovery after a workout when I do a quick cold bath. There is an argument however that cold exposure right after weight lifting may slightly inhibit muscle growth. I have personally not seen any practical evidence but if you are looking for increasing your muscle volume and you are concerned, you can leave a few hours after workout before you get in the cold tub.
4- Enhanced Immune Response: Did you know that cold exposure can have a profound impact on our immune system? Studies have revealed that subjecting ourselves to the cold can enhance the production of white blood cells, bolstering our body's defence against infections and diseases. By incorporating regular cold exposure into our routines, we may experience fewer bouts of illness and enjoy a fortified immune response. I truly do not remember last time I got sick but that can also be credited towards good nutrition and meditation!
5- Increased Energy: Really, feeling sluggish and in need of an energy boost? Believe me, look no further than cold exposure. When we expose ourselves to cold temperatures, our adrenal glands are stimulated, resulting in the production of epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones play a pivotal role in increasing energy levels and overall alertness. Imagine starting your day with a quick dip in cold water, or taking a cold shower awakening your body's natural energy resources. The minimum I do every morning is splashing my face with cold water before I do anything else. Some afternoons if I am working from home I feel a bit sluggish, I do a 5 to 10 minutes cold plunge and it’s like I am starting the day again!
6- Activation & Increase of Brown Fat: let’s talk about brown fat. Did you know that our bodies contain two types of fat: white fat and brown fat? While white fat stores excess energy, brown fat generates heat by burning calories. Cold exposure has the incredible ability to activate and increase the amount of brown fat in our bodies, leading to improved metabolism, increased insulin sensitivity, and potentially weight loss.
7- Lowered Blood Pressure: Several studies have also shown that regular cold exposure can help lower blood pressure. The extreme contraction and expansion of blood vessels during the process appears to be the mechanism that does it.
8- Beat Depression and improve mood: Next, depression. Measurements have shown after cold immersion, we get a boost of dopamine and endorphin which improvs mood, bring happiness and lowers any feeling of depression. In another video I will discuss the method that I personally use to gain as much mental and psychological lift as I can from cold exposure and if I am truly honest this is one of the main reasons that I do cold regularly. You can call it my dopamine addiction but I rather to be addicted to this form of dopamine production than any other.
9- Willpower: No doubt that embracing the cold requires willpower. The consistent practice strengthens not just our physical resilience but also our mental toughness and discipline. Before I start doing serious cold immersions, I always thought I had a very strong will power. Then I realized, there was room for improvement. There are days that you don’t feel getting in cold water but you still do it… that strengthens abd takes the will power and discipline to a different level.
10- Combating Addiction: The mental toughness developed through cold exposure can also help fight addiction. The discipline and endurance gained by braving the cold increases our pain threshold, making the physical and mental discomfort of withdrawal more manageable. Also a part of the dopamine that used to come through the addictive substance or behaviour can come through cold exposure again alleviating the feeling of depression due to withdrawal. Again I have seen people using cold as their main tool and obviously in combination with other efforts to beat their addiction.
11- Improving Sleep: The rush of adrenaline and cortisol during cold immersion depletes the cortisol level in the body, creating a conducive environment for falling asleep later at night. However I do not recommend it right before bedtime as the adrenaline levels can remain high for a few hours. I have experienced if I am doing it late evening it is better to end with warm like taking a warm shower, to get better sleep. But we will discuss the subject of ending with cold or warm and when to do one or the other in another day.
12- Autonomic Nervous System or ANS: Cold exposure also offers us an opportunity to learn to influence our ANS, which usually operates beyond our conscious control. Normally our ANS works automatically without any interference from us. However it has been proven over and over that human is capable of influencing the Autonomous nerves System through the power of mind, meditation and focus; accessing the subconscious levels. I do use cold as a way to teach myself to influence my ANS which I will share with you in the future.
Ok, that's a lot of benefits! But it's important to remember that like any new health practice, it's essential to approach cold exposure with caution. Everyone's body is different, so listen to yours and always consult with a healthcare professional especially if you have any pre-existing conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure.
Remember, the purpose of cold exposure is not to suffer, but to challenge ourselves, to build resilience, and to unlock a wealth of physical and mental benefits.