Cold exposure is something I have tried and tinkered with off and on for a few years. My first exposure to it was in a blog post by Timothy Ferriss and later on in his book “Four Hour Body”. The first time I tried it, It wasn’t a good experience overall. I had jumped into the deep end of it, and tried a cold bath right off the bat. Since then I’ve been able to adjust my body to it to get the most out of cold exposure, especially the health benefits. Many others have written about this as well, such as Dave Asprey of Bulletproof fame (books and products), Timothy Ferriss and recently I’ve been reading some Jack Kruse as well. Wim Hof is probably the most famous practitioner not only of cold exposure but of a breathing/meditation method he has developed as well.
There are methods of acclimating or working up to using ice baths, it’s generally best to start with quick cold showers, ice packs on your chest, back (with at least clothing or towel separating skin from the ice pack). Then working up to longer cold showers (up to 10 minutes), walking outside in colder weather and working up to ice baths. When you get to the ice bath stage, it’s best to do 5-10 minutes, with just the lower half of your body submerged. Over time, after at least a few times you can take an ice bath up to 30 minutes total and submerge your whole body. I generally add ice to cold water and let the ice melt at least 80-90 percent as well.
Cold and hot therapy has been used, especially in sports recovery and medicine for after training and treating injuries such as sprains, bruises, and joint problems as well. Typically the participant is exposed to ice water, and then, later on, take a hot bath, or go in a sauna. cold water, ice water makes your body and blood cool down, it can help with inflammation and pain as well. Exposure to ice water causes muscles and skin to cool down and restrict blood flow, as your body warms up normally or via hot water blood flow increases. There are products on the market such chilipad to help cool down your sleeping area, flexifreeze which designs ice packs and an icevest and even a cryohelmet which can be used for sleep, migraines and sports recovery.
Cold exposure can activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is also called the rest and digest system part of the nervous system. This can help with anxiety and mental health problems, help reset circadian rhythms. Cold showers and ice baths can be used to boost metabolism as well, especially when your upper chest, shoulders, and neck are exposed to cold water. In the shoulder, upper chest and neck there are areas of Brown Adipose (fat) tissue, which actually help your body burn and use fat as fuel.
Cold showers and ice baths have even been shown to help stabilize blood glucose levels, help with insulin resistance as well as leptin resistance. This is especially useful in people that are 20 lbs or more overweight and dealing with obesity since that demographic tends to have insulin resistance as well a leptin resistance.
It can also help enhance and improve detoxification pathways, increase bone health, decrease pain, improve sleep quality, speed recovery and heal injuries, and help strengthen the nervous system.
It’s best to build up slowly over time, start out with walking outside in the colder weather and using ice packs when resting/meditating, then move up to colder showers and ice baths. The max time for an ice bath is generally considered to be 30-45 minutes. If you have health conditions such as diabetes or other health problems, it would be wise to take it especially slow.
A problem I’ve found personally with full body exposure is that most bathtubs are designed for average-sized people and for people that are over 6 feet (like myself) and quite a bit overweight, a larger tub is needed. This can be remedied a number of ways, I know people that immerse themselves in cold water naturally such as rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds. Another way is to buy a stock or feed tank which can cost a few hundred dollars. If you’re on a low budget though a decent sized swimming pool should work.
Overall though, cold exposure in a variety of forms can help one achieve optimal health and wellness in a number of ways. It has been used for thousands of years in some places and can help with a number of health issues and problems.
Inspired by/Sourced from:
Wim Hof https://www.wimhofmethod.com/
Timothy Ferriss (books and blog) https://fourhourworkweek.com/