As a society we have become obsessed with comfort and keep ourselves ourselves in an environment that promotes this. We have centrally heated homes, hot tubs, air conditioning, cars with temperature control, food constantly available (and delivered to our doors if needed), covered shopping centres, medical care on hand 24 hours a day and all manner of devices to make things easier and more appealing.
All well and good you may say, but there is an increasing evidence that these “comforts” of the 21st century are also leading to a crisis in health with an overweight population, lifestyle illnesses burdening health systems (WHO – estimates that nearly 82% of illness in the modern “developed” world is caused by environmental and behavioural factors) and finally soaring mental health problems.
We are all told that we need to improve our diet and exercise on a regular basis. But is there anything else we could do, that is quick and easy and fits into our busy lives?
Well yes there is!! There is increasing evidence that exposure to cold helps to boost the immune system, helps regulate our metabolic health, assists weight loss (by activating Brown Adipose Tissue – BAT), tones up our cardio vascular health and helps us to maintain a more peaceful mindset. Famous proponents of this approach include Wim Hof (aka “the Ice Man”), professional sports players, cold water swimming clubs and lifestyle doctors.
Below I have detailed a brief and simple programme of cold exposure. This programme is suitable for all – HOWEVER IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION, ESPECIALLY A HEART PROBLEM OR ARE PREGNANT SEEK THE ADVICE OF A MEDICAL PRACTITIONER BEFORE ATTEMPTING.
Simple Cold Programme
- Start with taking 3 to 5 cold showers per week – start with a warm shower and at the end switch to cold water
- Increase the number of sessions to 7 days per week
- Over two or three months attempt to increase the cold duration of the showers by 15 second increments up to 2 minutes per session.
- If cold water is too shocking, start with cool/tepid water (any water below 16oC has physiological benefits)
- You will gasp when you start this programme, this mild hyperventilation is normal. Over the weeks and months this will lessen.
- Try to relax as much as possible during the cold showers
- An alternative is to use a cold pack on the upper back (just below the neck) for up to 20 minutes a time