The Benefits of Cold Exposure, Cryotherapy and Cold Plunge
Updated: Apr 1
Cold exposure is the practice of exposing the body to cold temperatures in order to achieve a variety of health benefits, both mental and physical. This can include everything from taking a cold shower to immersing oneself in icy-cold water, specialized cryotherapy chambers.
Circulation & Cardiovascular Health
One of the most well-known benefits of cold exposure is its ability to improve cardiovascular health. Cold water immersion, in particular, has been shown to increase circulation, lower blood pressure, and improve heart rate variability. This is believed to be due to the body's natural response to cold temperatures, which causes the blood vessels to constrict in order to preserve heat. This constriction increases the heart rate, which in turn improves circulation and overall cardiovascular health.
Another benefit of cold exposure is its ability to improve athletic performance. Studies have shown that regular cold water immersion can improve muscle recovery, reduce inflammation, and increase endurance. This is likely due to the fact that cold water immersion causes the body to release endorphins, which are natural painkillers that can help to reduce muscle soreness and improve overall athletic performance.
Cold exposure is also known for its ability to boost the immune system. Research has found that regular cold water immersion can increase the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off infections and illnesses. Additionally, cold exposure has been shown to reduce stress levels, which can further boost the immune system.
Cold exposure can aid in fat loss by activating brown adipose tissue (BAT), which is a type of fat that is more metabolically active than white fat. BAT is responsible for producing heat, and it does this by burning calories. When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, BAT is activated in order to keep the body warm. This results in an increase in the metabolism and a greater amount of calories burned.
Studies have shown that exposure to cold temperatures can increase the activity of BAT and lead to a reduction in overall body fat. The exposure to cold temperatures results in a mild stress on the body, which triggers the release of the hormone norepinephrine. This hormone is known to increase the activity of BAT, resulting in an increase in the metabolism and a greater amount of calories burned.
Mental Health & Resilience
Additionally, cold exposure has powerful effects for mental and emotional health as well. For example, some studies showed an increase in dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of motivation and satisfaction, by 250%.
A bit more subjectively, many cold immersion practitioners report that their experience exposing themselves to an uncomfortably cold temperature helps them build, courage, discipline, and an increased sense of resilience in the face of challenges and adversity.
For a deep dive into the latest research and specific science of the biological mechanisms explaining the benefits of cold exposure, check out this deep-dive from Stanford Neurobiologist Andrew Huberman.
Cryotherapy is an increasingly popular form of cold exposure is cryotherapy, which involves standing in a chamber that is cooled to extremely low temperatures. This can range from -180 to -220 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the type of cryotherapy chamber being used. Cryotherapy sessions at Reboot last 3 minutes.
Cryotherapy in particular can also be used to treat certain skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis via exposure to the cold nitrogen gas.
At Reboot, we offer 3-minute whole-body cryotherapy sessions with 4 choices of temperature, ranging from -180 to -220 degrees Fahrenheit. Our state of the art cryo machines include a speaker inside, so you can even choose a song to listen to on Spotify for your session.
Another way to expose one's body to the cold is through cold water immersion, which is the practice of submerging oneself in frigid water for short periods of time. This can be done in a swimming pool, lake, or other body of water, such as the Cold Plunge we offer in our Fire & Ice service at Reboot.
The feeling of plunging is different, and generally somewhat more intense, than cryotherapy, as the cold water interactions with the surface area of the skin and the nervous system differently.
For some, especially those without much tolerance to the cold or experience with cold immersion, even 10 seconds can feel intense. With consistent exposure, however, the body adapts to this stimulus, and practitioners can stay in the cold plunge for several minutes at a time. However, we encourage our customers to focus on counting their breaths, as opposed to counting the time, as a way to focus on the beneficial aspects of deep breathing in this environment.
Our plunge is strategically setup in the Fire & Ice room to allow one to alternative between the extreme warm and cold temperatures. This can not only make each experience more enjoyable than it otherwise would, but can also create a symbiotic effect through the combination, known as temperature contrast therapy.