Immersing yourself in ultra-low temperature water might not be your idea of a good time. But cold water exposure, however uncomfortable at first, offers many advantages to the body, like increasing body alertness, strengthening the immune system and even treating inflammation. Let’s dive deeper into the origins, health benefits, and optimal ways of practicing Cryotherapy.
The Origins of Cryotherapy
Since the dawn of mankind, humans have evolved outside in all types of environments. With no heated homes or warm water, the concept of cold therapy was renowned as a holy morning ritual that brought more energy, focus, and alertness for the day.
Coldwater immersion has centuries-old roots in various cultures, notably those of high latitudes. In Nordic cultures for example, the cold plunge was an ancient ritual championed by Vikings to energize the body. Beyond the rejuvenating effect, the practice was viewed as a way of affirming one’s courage, self-will, and reconnecting the body to an elemental lifestyle.
The Valuable Benefits of Cold Exposure
A few minutes in the cold can activate your body’s natural healing powers and promote a greater sense of well-being. Whether you are looking to increase body productivity or treat a disease, here are some of the benefits of practicing regularly cold treatment:
1. Increases body alertness
Cold exposure sends a series of electrical impulses from our peripheral nerves to the brain’s central nervous system, this charges the body and activates alertness.
Low temperatures also stimulate deeper breaths, and decreases levels of CO2 throughout the body. This increased oxygenation helps to be more focused throughout the day.
2. Combats Inflammation
Do you regularly feel sore, achy, or in pain? If so, you may want to consider incorporating cold water to your daily routine.
Exposure to frigid air brings your skin and muscles’ temperature down by triggering the production of adiponectin, a protein hormone that regulates insulin and lessens soreness and inflammation. Say long Ibuprofen! You’ll no longer need a pain-alleviator as you now found a natural way to speed up your recovery.
Cold therapy and exercise are also considered an excellent combination. According to The Glass House Retreat, exercising in the cold may reduce the number of inflammatory responses compared to normal temperatures.
3. Improves the Immune System
Dipping yourself in the cold water affects the lymphatic system, responsible for cleaning our body from waste, bacteria, and viruses. Essentially, the lymphatic system relies on muscle construction to pump lymph fluid through the vessels.
Coldwater immersion causes lymph vessels to contract, forcing the lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, clearing the waste out. This in turn triggers white blood cells to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the body. Who fancies a stronger immune system? Might help with the whole Covid-19 situation.4. Reduces stress
Plunging in cold water decreases cortisol levels, the hormone often associated with our levels of stress. According to The Science Focus, the benefits of cold water immersion can be divided in two parts: the "cold shock" response and the adapting phases.
A fight-or-flight response occurs when all of your skin's cold receptors are triggered, resulting in shivering and hyperventilation lasting about a minute. Your body is pumped with adrenaline during this moment, and your heart quickens. In technical terms, you're in a panic state, which results in rising blood pressure and the release of glucose fats into your bloodstream, providing energy as a signal to make a quick escape.
Cortisol levels will be reduced at this period by the release of adrenalin endorphins, our body’s happy hormones. After dipping into cold water several times, your body will learn to adjust to the cold, making you less receptive to the shocks and day-to-day stress.
Focus on Your Breathing
Breathing plays a crucial role when submerged in cold water - as it helps lower cortisol levels and soothes the mind. Remember that cold water constricts blood vessels, which tightens muscles and the skin.
Be mindful and focused during the therapy and try to set it aside feelings of discomfort. Once you manage your breathing, you will reap the benefits of cold water therapy.
How to introduce cold therapy to your life
Leveraging the rejuvenating powers of the cold isn’t that hard- all you need is a brief exposure to cold temperatures. Here are a variety of methods that you can adopt to practice cold therapy
1. Ice bath: soaking your body in a tub filled with cold water is a common trend, particularly among athletes after a strenuous workout. Remember to start slowly and ease into it. You can begin by soaking yourself for ten seconds in a tub filled with cold or icy water and work your way up to a few minutes.
2. Cold shower: having a cold shower with a water temperature between 50 and 59°F is the simplest and easiest way to include the cold therapy method into your daily routine. However, if you have no prior experience with a cold shower, commence with a regular shower and switch to cold for the last 30 seconds. No need to rush, take it slow.
3. Cryotherapy: taking the concept of “icing for relief”, Cryotherapy is a treatment where the body is immersed in ultra-low temperature air (between negative 200–300°F) for a few minutes at a time to stimulate cutaneous thermo-receptors, which will induce hormonal and metabolic reactions. The individual stands in an enclosed chamber or a small enclosure that surrounds their body with an opening hole for the head at the top.
Overall, everyone’s body will react differently to various treatments. The best approach is to wade in slowly. Begin with lowering the water temperature for a few seconds during your shower, then progressively lengthen the time you spend in cold water over a few weeks.
We do not suggest rapid immersion as it may cause fatal changes in breath and heart rate. If you have a heart disease or any other chronic conditions, be vigilant with any form of sudden temperature changes and make sure to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your daily routine.