Winter still reigns, and it’s a season very few people like – but few know that controlled and careful, but regular cold exposure has many health benefits.
The use of cold temperature for therapeutic purposes is an age-old practice, it was already known in ancient Egypt, but modern science forgot about it for a while, and it was only in the last three or four decades that scientists began to re-examine its effects. The results are very encouraging. Of course, caution and gradualism are important: we all heard the dangers of jumping into cold water with overheated body as children, and they are certainly not unfounded. You should think of cold exposure as a training session, with which we slowly get used to something unknown – as our muscles do, for example, with weight lifting.
The simplest method of cold training is getting used to cold water: start with regular warm water, then switch to cooler water, then back to warm, back to cool, et cetera. Gradually stay under the cold water for a bit longer time, a bit more often. Slowly your body will be able to take it longer and longer. Deep breaths also help a lot. If the cold shower is already going well, then you can start walking outdoors in less clothes than usual – while still paying attention to deeper breaths. The goal is to teach the body the ability to turn on the internal heating – so you won’t get cold.
Wim Hof, an expert on the subject, has written a series of books and articles about the method, you should check them out. Exposure to the cold for five to ten minutes a day will already bring the desired result: you will be less cold, so you can enjoy the winter months better, and you can also benefit from a series of positive health effects that are almost impossible to achieve otherwise.
Fat burning, metabolism
Regular exposure to cold increases the body’s ability to burn fat, because it increases the activity of the so-called brown fat tissue: these are our fat cells that turn calories into heat, so getting them to work means increased calorie burning. By the way, shivering itself is a fat-burning process. Cold also accelerates the production of a protein called adiponectin in the body, which also promotes fat burning.
But not only fat burning is accelerated by the cold: the entire metabolism is refreshed, according to some research, by up to eighty percent. According to a research, rats exposed to cold burned so many more calories that they ate 50 percent more than their peers kept warm, yet their weight remained lower and they lived ten percent longer than their peers. Since adiponectin is also involved in blood sugar regulation, exposure to cold is also beneficial on this front.
Anti-inflammation and willpower
The already mentioned adiponectin comes into action again: this protein has an important role not only in burning fat, but also in fighting inflammations in the body. In addition, the cold strengthens the nervous system, thus accelerating adaptation skills. Cold also has a positive effect on injuries: it reduces swelling, relieves pain and muscle soreness. The daily temperature fluctuation also plays an important role in regulating sleep cycles – the benefits of sleeping in a cooler room have already been discussed a lot. In addition, the body used to the cold releases more antioxidants, so it ages more slowly and has a stronger immune system. Cold even effects willpower: those who regularly expose themselves to something that is not comfortable or pleasant – such as a cold shower – report that they take on challenges of life more easily and fight more persistently for their goals. That sounds good, doesn’t it?