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Cold Exposure

Cold Exposure

If you’ve ever run out of hot water while showering, you’ve no doubt experienced the sudden shock to the system that cold water immersion brings.

You might find yourself gasping for breath as the cold water pierces every nerve in your body and get yourself out of the firing line as quickly as possible.

Yet a growing number of people are using cold water exposure as a tool to a tool to improve recovery, metabolic health, mental focus and even immune system health.

This is nothing revolutionary, cold exposure has been used as a therapeutic tool for millennia.

But more recent trends include ice baths, outdoor swims and daily cold showers, popularised by Wim Hoff in his book “The Wim Hoff Method”.

Today we’re going to look at how cold exposure might benefit you, and how you might integrate it into your routine.

Cold water exposure has been linked to a number of health benefits.

Improved metabolic rate: heating up your body takes energy, therefore getting cold helps bump up that energy cost. Research shows that a group of divers had a significantly higher basal metabolic rate in the winter than in the summer waters(2).

Reduced inflammation and muscle soreness: Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to an area. This reduces swelling and inflammation, as well as soreness(1,3).

Stress resistance and improved immune response: Cold water is a mild stressor and causes a stress response in the body. This adaptation process, known as hormesis, helps the body become more resilient to stress and toxins, much like exercise does(1).

Energy and focus: If you’ve ever jumped into a freezing cold pool, you will know that there is absolutely no way you’re going to feel tired after. This can be an exceptional way to energise the body and mind.

Forging discipline: Doing a difficult task such as cold exposure, especially first thing in the morning, can improve your determination and discipline. Think about this, if you are able to push yourself into this discomfort first thing in the day, then writing a difficult e-mail afterwards will feel much easier.

If you want to test some of these benefits out for yourself, here’s a few suggestions:

  • Hot to cold shower - start hot finish on cold for 30 seconds.
  • Straight up cold shower. Easier if you’ve just finished working out.
  • Make an ice bath with cold water and ice cubes to 5-15 degrees
  • If you have a pool or live near the ocean and its winter, jump in!

Start with lower durations of 1-3 minutes and work your way up over time. Remember, cold exposure can be dangerous and proceed with caution. Make the sessions brief and warm up properly afterwards. For colder temperatures, having a spotter is advised.

Happy bathing!

References

FoundMyFitness. 2022. FoundMyFitness Topic - Cold exposure. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 February 2022].

Lee, J., Park, J. and Kim, S., 2017. Cold adaptation, aging, and Korean women divers haenyeo. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 36(1).

Stanley, J., Buchheit, M. and Peake, J., 2011. The effect of post-exercise hydrotherapy on subsequent exercise performance and heart rate variability. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112(3), pp.951-961.

George Armstrong Weekly Workout 20th February 2022
George Armstrong Weekly Workout 13th February 2022