I have been doing cold exposure therapy for a few years now. I will share my experience and research in this article. I am not a professional cold therapy practitioner in any way. I am a person seeking new experiences and modalities to manage and regulate my nervous system, and feel good. I find it to be invigorating and that feeling seems to last for days. This seems to be a very positive outcome for my overall health and wellbeing.
The Ways I Experience Cold Exposure Therapy
There are many ways to experience cold exposure. One method is an ice bath, made popular by the breathing technique introduced by Wim Hoff. To experience this you sit in a tub filled with ice. Remember the ALS ice bucket challenge of 2014? Imagine sitting in the bucket either alone or with others for a period of time, usually about two full minutes. That’s the ice bath. I have experienced two group ice bath experiences. One in a pool of people and another in a tub or trough by myself. In both cases we started with breathwork. You can fill your own bathtub with ice for an at home ice bath. You can jump in a cold body of water such as a lake and take a cold water swim. I have experienced this as well and being in a natural body of water has a special type of thrill. You can opt for a cold shower, gradually turning the temperature down until your shower is cold, increasing your tolerance over time. One client echoed my feeling saying this is especially hard because you are doing it to yourself. Forcing yourself to stay under the freezing cold stream. I do this a few times a week. You can simply go outside during cold weather. Cold weather walks, sports, or other outdoor activities are great ways to receive benefits of cold exposure. I grew up skiing so I love this. There's something so fresh about being outside in the cold. Some prefer to utilize cryotherapy, where you can expose your body to extremely cold temperatures for a short duration. Cryotherapy chambers use either liquid nitrogen or refrigerated cold air to lower the temperature to freezing. I have done this a few times too and it feels like the coldest of frosty cold but somehow less because you are not wet.
What are the benefits of cold exposure therapy?
There are many benefits of cold exposure for both the body and mind. It helps aid in hormonal regulation and weight management. It improves circulation and decreases inflammation. It can improve sleep function, enhance your mood, and increase your energy and alertness. It can aid in recovery after exercise and lower stress levels. I have found that the first 20 seconds are excruciating but when you return to your breath and realize you can almost relax into it, a sort of euphoric feeling comes over me. I feel this sense of groundedness and wellbeing for a full day or two after cold exposure. There’s the tingly adrenaline thrill to having completed it and also a renewed sense of confidence in my own resilience to thrive in uncomfortable conditions. Of course there could be a placebo effect at play, but it doesn’t matter so much to me. I feel better and I find benefits to cold exposure and that is enough for me.
How to do Cold Exposure Therapy at Home
Cold therapy can be done at home by cold showers, cold weather outdoor workouts, or ice baths. In addition, applying cold compresses to different areas of the body is an easy way to try cold therapy at home. I have applied cold compresses to my forehead in the past and it has eased my tension.
Tips for Newbies
Newbies should try cold therapy with a group or guide and never start something new alone. As with any new activity, consulting with a healthcare professional about your specific health conditions is recommended. You can always increase duration with time, but it is recommended to start with short doses of cold exposure. Educate yourself on the risks before you begin. Stay hydrated and have a plan for warming up afterwards. Listen to your body and if you feel extreme discomfort, dizziness, or nassau it’s best to take a break and warm up.
Is There Anyone who Should not Practice Cold Exposure Therapy?
Everyone should use caution when practicing cold therapy but especially people that are pregnant, diabetic, have cardiovascular issues, or respiratory problems.