Cold Water Therapy
We’ve all had those moments when we’re enjoying a warm shower and suddenly, the hot water runs out, hitting us with a jolt of icy water. Many of us take this moment for granted and quickly hop out to avoid the cold water, but many are not aware of the benefit this sudden change in temperature can have on our health.
The premise behind cold therapy is that regularly exposing the body to the stress of cold water for brief moments of time can actually improve health. Those who have been exposed to this kind of therapy have commended this simple procedure for boosting the immune system, decreasing the chances for inflammation and pain, and increasing blood flow. A shower may be enough for some, but full immersion is recommended in order to get the full experience.
One advantage that has been touted above the rest is the melting away of “brown fat”, which is what the body burns through to raise body temperature. This brown fat is created from the white fat that our bodies naturally store for energy purposes. It’s been shown that exposing the body for three hours in cold therapy can result in the burning of 250 calories of brown fat. Regular exposure can, over time, result in the use of white fat that would otherwise be stored for later. By giving this fat a “purpose”, the body will store less fat, helping you to shed those unsightly pounds.
The second main advantage of cold therapy is that it naturally boosts the immune system through what is called hormetic stress. This is the exposure of the body to force it to overcompensate for a small, uncomfortable condition. For example, performing deadlifts with weights normally injures your hamstrings, but will naturally help your body to build more muscle to compensate for the weight that it is carrying. Through regular intervals of cold therapy, the body adapts to the cold conditions, forcing the body to strengthen the immune system to compensate for the exposure.
Cold therapy is not without its dangers, however. Hypothermia is the first of many and can make any exposure a dangerous experience. It can affect one’s mental faculties, from the constriction of blood vessels to the brain, so one many not even realize he is drowning or in danger of drowning. Slow preparation by gradually decreasing the temperature over time with each exposure is the best way to acclimate the body to colder conditions so that hypothermia can be avoided.
Frostbite is also another danger to the body, as blood retreats from the limbs that are farthest from the heart. This can eventually lead to the death of the tissue and severe nerve damage, which can cause the extremities to fall off.
Cold therapy can be quite beneficial to the body if done gradually over time. The first plunge can be quite a shock to the system, but the benefits certainly outweigh the mild discomfort one feels from exposure to the cold.