Cold and I have been enemies for years. At least, that WAS the story. As someone who had a difficult time regulating my body temperature, I used to HATE the cold. I lived in Southern California and I loved it. You would find me in a blanket if the weather dropped below 75 degrees, and at one point, it got so bad that I would find myself in bed because of my inability to get warm. It was painful.
Flash forward, I am now a huge advocate for cold exposure and practice intentional cold therapy regularly! If you have been around here for a bit, you know that I firmly believe in the benefits of cold exposure as I have experienced them in my own life. But how did I make this change?
You might find yourself asking one of two questions: 1) isn’t cold exposure dangerous? What about getting sick? 2) Can I actually practice cold exposure and why would I want to leave my fuzzy socks for frostbite? If this is you, I have some good news. Let’s start with debunking the myth that cold exposure will lead directly to a cold...
Quick Facts About Colds
Research suggests that most cold viruses survive in colder weather. Additionally, there is supporting research that demonstrates less humidity and lower temperatures increased the multiplication of viruses. This same study showed that most infections occurred in temperatures 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
THIS MEANS, there is truth behind the “cold season” being during the colder months. However, it does not mean that being in the cold (or cold exposure) will directly link to a cold or cold symptoms. There is a safe way to practice cold exposure.
Remember, it is the virus that makes you sick, not the cold weather itself. So, if you are flushing your lymphatic system and building your immunity, you are less likely to get sick overall, in cold or hot weather. If you are afraid of getting sick from cold weather, you are focusing on the incubator, not the disease itself. I would suggest you focus on building your body's resistance; play offense because we rarely get ahead from only playing defense.
If you are looking for ways to overcome your cold this winter, read this blog.
Benefits of Cold Exposure
Cold exposure, cold therapy, cryotherapy...different name, same meaning. Introducing cold as a way to improve your health is not a new concept, though it has gained popularity in recent years. This is because more and more science is revealing that cold is good for more than just athletes with overworked muscles. Cold is good for fighting overall inflammation, increasing metabolism and boosting immune response. That’s right. So while you have been hiding from the cold afraid of catching a bug, you could have been embracing strategic cold so that you could BUILD your immune response.
This strengthening of your immune system is due to the cold's impact on your lymphatic system. Coldwater immersion causes your blood vessels to contract forcing your lymphatic system to essentially “wake up”. When the lymphatic system does not have this push, it can start to slow down or even “fall asleep” entirely. The cold water creates a response in the lymphatic system that your white blood cells are then able to react to, resulting in a strengthened immune system and a happier you.
One of my favorite things about cold therapy is that it can be entirely free! It’s an easy way to start making a difference in certain areas of your life without investing extra expenses. Because, let’s be honest, whether you are battling a chronic illness or simply investing in all organic foods and supplements, it’s nice to find ways to support your health that don’t take extra funds.
Maybe you are reading this but starting cold therapy feels far fetched for you. If you are like me, the thought of being cold sends memories of being in pain running through your mind. If this is you, I want you to know I understand, but it does not make you exempt from the list of people I would recommend cold therapy to. I would suggest that you find ways to start small. Start with 30 seconds of a cold shower or putting your face in ice water. Start with going outside in the morning for 5 minutes before you shower. Slowly wiggle your way into it. It’s amazing the progress you can make if you set your mind to it.
And that's just it, isn't it? When it comes to our health, 90% of the battle is getting our mind to commit to healing, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you. Do yourself this favor. Take these small steps towards a better future. Keep your mind fixated on achieving your best health. Cold therapy is a great way to start building both physical and mental tenacity.
How to Practice Cold Exposure Without Catching a Cold
- Don’t go outside in cold temperatures for extended periods of time with wet hair or skin (or clothes for that matter).
- Don’t go outside in cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time if you have been drinking alcohol.
- Don’t go outside in cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time if you have certain health conditions. HOWEVER, intentional and supervised cold exposure practices might help you heal from these conditions (like I healed from my hypothyroidism).
- Do practice cold exposure with a buddy or under supervision of someone who has experience with cold exposure. My first time in a frozen lake was at a bio-hacker retreat put on by my friend, PrimalHacker.
- Do work your way up. Start small and make progress.
- Do plan, prepare and practice cold exposure with a mission.
Ways to Practice Cold Exposure Year Round
- Put a single ice cube on the top of your spine and let it melt
- End your shower with cold water
- Place cold packs on the back of your neck/spine
- Go outside in shorts/bathing-suit when the temperature is in the 40's
- Take a full immersion ice bath in your own home
- Take a cold shower for up to 5 minutes
- Take a full body dip in a frozen lake
- Walk barefoot in the snow
- Practice meditating in the cold like the Tibetan Monks
Want more suggests on how you can start making a difference in your health? Schedule your free 15-minute consultation with me, Carly Neubert, BA, NC.