What if the best part of waking up, wasn’t actually Folgers in your cup? What if the best thing to do to kick start your day was actually a cold shower? I know, I know, but hear me out. Exposure to cold is increasing more and more in popularity due to it’s wide array of health benefits. Cold therapy is used by some of the biggest names in health and behavioral sciences. Tony Robbins starts each day with a dip in his specially designed therapy pool, which sits at 57 degrees. Wim Hof, the holder of more than 20 world records has been a mystery to scientists for his ability to be exposed to cold temperatures, and it’s physiological benefits. Aubrey Marcus and Tim Ferriss both discuss the benefits of starting your day with a cold shower and cold exposure. So what is the all the hype about, and how can you implement cold exposure into your routine, so you can achieve these benefits too?
One benefit of cold exposure is increased burning of fat, through increased BAT (Brown Adipose Tissue) activity, leading to increased calorie expenditure. In The 4 Hour Body, Ferriss recommends the Chattanooga ColPac , to increase fat burning and use temperature to manipulate weight. An ice pack held on the base of the neck/upper area of spine between upper shoulder blades for 15 minutes – in the evening for maximum effect. Ferriss recommended the mentioned ColPac in the The 4 Hour Body, which provides countless ways to increase overall health, and I highly recommend. If you’re hesitant regarding cold exposures ability to increase fat loss, think of Michael Phelps. During his Olympic days, it was said that he ate 12,000 calories per day. Obviously his physical activity contributed to his caloric intake, however the pool temperature did as well. The average temperature of an Olympic pool is cooler than the human core body temperature, leading his body to burn 4-6 times more calories than a warm pool, therefore his body needed to consume higher caloric levels to maintain activity.
Another benefit of cold exposure is it’s ability to decrease inflammation and increase immune system response and other healing properties. Have you ever seen athletes hop into an ice bath? This is to help speed up recovery. Cold water immersion causes reductions in blood flow, swelling, inflammation, muscle spasm, and metabolic demand. Although jumping into a bath filled with ice, or a pool specially designed for cold water immersion doesn’t sound physically appealing, Tony Robbins utilizes this every day to help increase his agility, mental focus, and determination.
Cold water immersion is not for the faint of heart, and it isn’t recommended to immerse for longer than 10 minutes. Aubrey Marcus and Tony Robbins, both utilize specific breathing techniques to help increase the positive effects of cold exposure while using intense focus to overcome the physical effects of cold. The Wim Hof Method uses visualization/meditation and “power breathing” as ways to focus concentration and allow the body to overcome physiological challenges, such as cold. This breathing technique can cause light headedness, so use caution if you choose to try this while taking a cold shower or cold plunge. You can find a basic tutorial on this technique here.
Increased happiness, resilience and will power are also benefits of cold exposure. In Own the Day, Own Your Life Aubrey Marcus stresses the importance of starting each day with a cold shower. Your entire shower doesn’t have to be cold. Do your business and then at the end of the shower implement the Wif Hof breathing method (again, use caution as this can cause light-headedness). Marcus explains If you can have the will power to turn that shower knob to cold for just 1-3 minutes at the end of your shower. Tell yourself as that water gets colder and colder “I can do hard things” at the end of the shower, you feel a sense of accomplishment and resilience which you can carry with you throughout the day. Tony Robbins further explains cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which makes you feel happy; long term, these benefits have been shown to decrease depressive symptoms.
Finally, cold exposure can increase sleep function. Climbing into bed, under a big comfy blanket in a chilly room feels good, but it also has health benefits. Studies have found lowering your core body temperature during sleep increased double the restorative, slow wave sleep; meaning you wake up feeling well rested. Additionally, the National Sleep Foundation recommends adults sleep in a cold room, between 60 and 67 degrees (65 to 70 for babies and toddlers) to facilitate healthy sleep. Lowering your core temperature can also be done with the ColPac for shoulder and neck mentioned above. Wear your neck pack for 15 minutes before bed and you can increase your metabolism and have a good nights sleep!
Having your own custom-built cold water immersion pool, may not be for all of us; But turning that knob to cold at the end of your shower or popping an ice pack on the back of your neck is! Give one of these techniques a try this week and let me know what you think!