I’ve been experimenting with cold exposure (popularly known as the Wim Hof method) for quite a while now. This means a lot of frigid showers, excruciating ice baths and even some winter swimming. That said, I’ve never had a chance to try out a cryo chamber. Until now.
How does it compare to good old fashioned frigid water? Find out in this video.
Also, my friend Jason (who also gives the chamber a go for the first time) doesn’t have a whole lot of experience with the cold. In fact, I don’t think he’s a fan of it at all. I’ll let you be the judge.
Why bother subjecting yourself to the rigors of cold exposure? Read on to find out.
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Despite the acute discomfort involved in cold play (I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I’m talking about the band, the activity, or both), it actually feels wonderful. Sound paradoxical? Let me explain– Upon exiting the cold, you’re going to feel absolutely marvelous. There really is an invigorating natural high waiting for you on the other side of your suffering. On top of that, studies have shown that regular cold exposure has numerous benefits, here are a few–
- An up to 5-fold increase in the neurotransmitter norepinephrine in the brain (this promotes focus, vigilance and attention)
- The production of cold shock proteins. CSPs can repair damaged synapses in the brain as well as prevent muscle atrophy
- A decrease in inflammation and pain
- Longterm cold therapy may increase immune cell numbers and even kill cancer cells
- An increase in metabolic rate and fat burn
- Promotion of brown adipose tissue (a form of fat that burns regular “white” fat)
- An improvement in cellular health and resilience
- Improved mood and decreased depression
“The stress from heat alteration such as extreme exposure to cold is actually good for our health, athletic endurance, preventing muscle atrophy, increasing neurogenesis, improving learning and memory, and improving longevity. Cold showers can even be used to treat depression. Exposure to cold releases norepinephrine into the brain, where it is involved in vigilance, focus, attention and mood. It has also its role in pain, metabolism and inflammation. This response is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight). Norepinephrine can rise 200-300% with cold immersion near 0 Celsius for 20 seconds / 3 times a week.
Norepinephrine reduces inflammation through the inhibition of inflammatory cytokines including TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha), a molecule involved in almost every human disease from type 2 diabetes to cancer. Inflammatory cytokines also play a role in anxiety and depression, therefore cold exposure may have mood enhancing capabilities.
Cold also activates cold thermogenesis, a way for the body to produce heat. The health benefits of cold thermogenesis are due to the activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT), a form of fat that burns regular fat for heat generation through fat oxidation. This has mitochondrial effects in cranking out more ATP. The more mitochondria there are, the better our aerobic capacity will be. Cold exposure increases the number of mitochondria (mitochondrial biogenesis). The more BAT you have, the better your body becomes in burning fat for energy. Fat loss benefits, anyone?
Cold exposure also releases cold shock proteins such as RNA binding motif 3 (RBM3) that is linked to regeneration of synapses. Similar effects have been observed in so-called heat shock proteins that are released under heat stress.”
For citations, podcasts, methods and technical information on the health benefits of cold exposure, check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s website.
The cold can absolutely be dangerous, practice any kind of cold exposure mindfully and at your own risk.